Tag Archives: Sustainable Future

Still looking for my voice…

After nearly a decade you would think I’d have found my voice for this blog. Having changed the focus so many times doesn’t help much I suppose. Personal blog, business blog, aviation focus, woodworking focus, I mean, really… how many times have I twisted this thing into something I needed/wanted at the moment? I’ve lost count.

I don’t know if I will ever know what my blog voice is. I do know, I need to write more frequently if I ever want to find that voice. March 28th, 2018 is marked down on the calendar as my 10th Blogaversary. The family and I have a lot of big changes in our lives taking place between now and March. I am hopeful that I will at least have a whisper if not a voice by then.

Big changes? First and foremost, we are moving. Not just across town, to another state. I say this because I have always lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. 50 years and the only time I wasn’t living in the area was a six month period I lived and worked on a job-site in Stockton, less than two hours from here. In fact, the family and I have been living in the same apartment for over 21 years.

Beginning July 1st, we will be in transition to our new-to-us house in Klamath Falls, Oregon. New town, new state, new house, new jobs; big changes. I haven’t lived in a house in 40 years, Tammy hasn’t lived in a house in almost 30. I am very excited about these changes. We want to shift to a more sustainable lifestyle and getting out of the multi-million populated urban sprawl and moving to a city of fewer than thirty-thousand people is a great start. We will be looking for our forever-homestead after we get up to KF and have had a chance to get to know the area.

Another change for us is the earnest desire to get outdoors and go do things. Sightsee, hike, canoe, just get out in nature, which will be interesting since none of us have lived in an area it snows, or rains a lot. It will take some time to acclimate to the area and its weather.

So you can see, there will be a lot of subject matter potential for the blog and writing in general. I am not making any commitments right now, but I would like to see myself post at least 500 words at least once a week. That seems like a reasonable goal. I am also looking forward to more interesting photographic subject matter to be included in the posts.

Along with all of the changes in lifestyle and location, we are hoping to make a few changes internally. With all of the out-and-about, we will be working on getting more physically fit, and tuning into the new, smaller, less frantic world around us. One of the reasons I don’t go out much anymore is the crush of people everywhere we go. I have to tune out so much background noise just to get from point A to point B. When you think about it, it’s easy to see why people seem to have lost their sense of self-preservation. They tune out so much around themselves, they just don’t see or hear it coming.

When you think about it, it’s easy to see why people in urban areas seem to have lost their sense of self-preservation. They tune out so much around themselves, they just don’t see or hear it coming. The density of it all accelerates the environments natural selection, adaptations, and migrations. An interesting idea for a sociology hypothesis… later.

My only regular outing is going to Volunteer Examiner sessions for Amateur Radio license exams on the first and third Saturday of the month. On more than a few occasions, I have not left the property we manage between VE sessions. If I don’t need something or have been asked to help someone, I would rather just stay on-site. My current density adaptation is to isolate/insulate when possible.

Not healthy, physically or otherwise. Socializing has followed the same lines, aside from the internet, I only see the folks at VE, or chat with other hams on the radio. Radio will still be my main social outlet, but I am looking forward to participating in things with actual people, not just internet friends or disembodied voices.

Any way you slice it, there are some big changes in store for our family. I for one am looking forward to some change with open eyes, mind, and arms. Klamath Falls… bring it on!

Until next time,

Résumé Updating

TakingNoteIt’s been a while since I took any time to update the old résumé, though I must admit not a lot has changed, it’s just time to polish things up a bit. I have a LinkedIn account and I do make minor changes there every so often, but I haven’t done much with the hardcopy. *shudder… hardcopy*

While going through my LI profile something in the “Interests” caught my eye…

“movies, music, writing, flying, aircraft (design/construction/restoration), amateur radio, history, anthropology, archaeology, genealogy, archive, preservation (document/book/photograph), blacksmithing, silversmithing, metal fabrication, woodworking, sustainable living (building, power, farming, food), alternative building technologies, primitive technology, self reliance, resiliency (personal, local, community, regional, national)”

I’m pretty sure I have gone down this road before at some point, but it bares repeating. It’s the resiliency line personal, community, local, regional, national, (and by extension international). With all of the hullabaloo about Brexit people are thinking about how it will affect them. Really, it shouldn’t.

Before anyone starts screaming “Exclusionist!” or “Nationalist!” like somehow nationalism is automatically a bad thing like the bought-and-paid-for media would have you think, participating in worldwide commerce is not bad, far from it. Depending on a centralized global economy is bad, very bad. Even centralized national economies are bad. We keep having example after example of what happens when centralized economies have sector hiccoughs. The whole thing is affected.

When the US economy crashed in 2008, due to our own internal centralized economy and the managers of that system doing bad things, it was felt around the world. When the Greek economy tanked it was directly due to the EU centralized economy, and it affected all of the EU and beyond. The Brexit issue has been felt all over the globe as well. These effects are all because of the idea that the world is somehow better off when we all have our eggs in the same basket. It is absurd.

Why Jon, when you say it that way it sounds so obviously bad, but surly global economics aren’t that simplistic. Actually, yes. Yes they are. At least from the notion that centralization is a good thing. So in this case it really is that simple.

Centralization, in any system, creates more sub-systems and moving parts that are all interdependent. The level of complexity is exponentially increased, and much of the energy that goes into the system goes towards minimizing losses and damage the system itself creates, and of course the administration of the system. Not to mention that the resulting product is generally of lower quality by the time it gets to the consumer/user. Worst of all, with all of the interdependence even a small hiccough produces problematic ripples throughout the system and may even halt it all together.

A simple example is the spinach crisis a few years ago in the US. Much of spinach supplied to restaurants and some grocery stores was recalled because a pig got loose on one farm. There was an outbreak of e.coli, not an epidemic, but large enough and wide enough spread to panic a lot of people, cost farmers millions, destroy a large portion of the nations spinach crop, and waste millions in resources throughout the centralized food system. Absolutely none of it was necessary. To top it all off, it further set in motion more restrictive regulations shutting out some small farms due to the onerous regulations and cost.

So what does all of this have to do with resiliency? Any engineer will tell you eliminate single-point-failures, and provide redundancy if you want a resilient system. You cannot design a resilient system from the top down, it just wont work it, more to the point it can’t work. It must be designed and built from the bottom up. That’s why the order I use is so important personal, community, local, regional, national, (and by extension international).

To avoid collapse of any of the centralized systems we currently have, start with yourself and your family. Have plans and preparations in place so you are more resilient. Help family and neighbors to be more resilient. All of you can start working on getting your community more resilient.

Slowly but surely people are waking up to the simple facts. As the understanding of how theses system interrelate and how wasteful they are, how the systems only care about the system and not the end user, how the user is cheated out of high quality goods and is forced pay a premium for the privilege, people are beginning to put all of the pieces together.

No amount of railing on and on about how simple this all is will convince those who choose to stay the course. They must see the light in their own time. This is something that I am coming to terms with myself. It seems so clear, and I want the people I care about to be resilient and not suffer when those hiccoughs occur. All I can do is walk the walk and demonstrate by example.

All of the Brexit panic, anger, frustration, division, and the eventual blow back all come from not understanding what great-granny always said “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Smart old broad that.


Electric Cars

I watched the documentary “Who killed the electric car?” a couple of days ago. If you are interested in electric cars, alternative fuels or alternative power generation I highly recommend this film.

Who killed the electric car?<soapbox> I fully admit I have no love for the Big Three US auto manufacturers, for a variety of reasons. Aside from their being among the largest conglomerates in the country, aside from the perverted, incestuous, and deep multi-layered collection of sub companies, aside from their talent for destroying small businesses, aside from their historical penchant for buying new technologies that could revolutionize transportation from small businesses and developers and hiding it from the rest of the world for decades or just destroying it outright, aside from all of that… I just don’t like what passes for ethics in there world. </soapbox>

Any project that can lead to the development of personal or public transportation vehicles or systems is worthwhile in my book, whether for personal or public development. Anything we can do that will be good for the environment, reduce costs for users, and take a chunk of change out of the pockets of the Big Three at the same time, thats just awesome.

There are small businesses in nearly every large metro area that can convert ANY car into an all electric car. It’s a three-fer; supporting small business, recycling a car, and removing a gas burner replacing it with an electric! The down side here is the cost, a complete change over to a plug-in electric is about $15,000. There are DIY option for this though. Batteries and the right electric motor are still expensive but the prices are coming down. A gear head with five or six grand could effectively do a home conversion.

Since I am low in the cash department, I was looking at the TruckBike as a starting point. Human powered, converting to human-electric, then on to electric. After some deeper thought on the subject I am starting to think skipping the human-electric phase. Building a plug in just might be easier than trying to work out the bugs in the human interface portion; just a thought.

Not everyone is up for a build project, and not everyone is able to cover the up front costs of a conversion. There is a burgeoning movement however of people finding creative ways to finance a conversion project when they need a new car. Think about it, if you have the credit to go out and buy a new car, you should be able to get a loan to finance the conversion, it’s cheaper that buying a car, so the payments are lower. There are some grants and other incentives from the fed, state and some local municipalities that may lower the initial investment. After that, monthly operating costs are going to be lower and regular maintenance costs are going to be substantially lower. It just might be worth the research if owning an electric car is something you are interested in.

Most estimates put the break-even on a electric conversion at around three years. With fuel costs what they are and maintenance on an aging car, it’s not that hard to see the payoff, and that is strictly looking at the money side. From an ecological perspective it makes a big difference.

Anecdotally, I heard a story about a person who got an all-electric conversion on there BMW. To go one step further, they installed a high quality solar array on their garage roof, including an energy storage system. The whole thing cost a little over $50K. For that they got a completely refurbished BMW and… the solar provides all of the energy for the car, as well as a significant portion of their home electric needs. No more gas stations and you energy bill cut in half. Now thats a payoff!

Until net time,

12 Lane Highway of Choices

Deciding to head down the road of sustainability and self-sufficiency is very empowering, but it can get a little muddy. At some point you start looking at all of the areas you want to impact, or decrease your impact in, and realize that what you thought was a bike path is really a 12 lane highway of choices heading off in all directions. It’s a daunting prospect and can scare you back into your old habits. But have faith, it gets better.

It usually starts with a specific area; let’s say, independence from fossil fuels. This is an outstanding place to start, but what can we do to get started? The high gas prices of the late 2000s illustrates one way. When refined gas prices went through the roof, consumers fought back. We, as a consumer base, reduced total fuel consumption by few percentage points for 2008. It doesn’t sound like much, but that is millions of barrels of oil, and it was enough to make the oil companies to pause and decide to take a loss in their profit margin to get people back on the road by reducing prices. Getting a dime out of an oil company is an achievement. A few million dollars? Well, that is downright amazing.

Making changes doesn’t have to be a major impact on your lifestyle. If every American makes one change to reduce their carbon footprint or reduce consumption of natural resources or go a little out of their way to support their local economy, it all adds up into a better environment and economy. It may seem like that step is small, but with enough of us taking those small steps it will have a huge effect overall. Some of the small things that have a big impact are things like choosing reusable bags for shopping, taking a walk or bike ride to run short errands instead of hopping in the car, or shop at the local farmers market. These are small changes in lifestyle that can make a big impact on sustainability.

My wife and I have been using reusable shopping bags for a couple of years now. It was a very small change in our lifestyle but makes a difference and it makes us feel good too. We also started walking more, for health and to run small errands like going to the bank, small trips to the grocery store or out to lunch, getting a hair cut, and any errands to stores that are close by. For us, a round-trip walk to the bank takes about 20 minutes, which is isn’t much longer than taking the car.

Once you start making these little changes you tend to start thinking about other small changes you can make that will further your sustainable and self-sufficiency goals. If you take them one at a time and get used to it, incorporating other small changes is easy. By the time you know it, you are making a big difference. Some hard-core activists take on the “total life makeover;” stop bathing and move into a tree hammock. That’s great for making an impact statement, but it doesn’t work for most of us. Take the time to think about what changes you can make that will have a positive impact but won’t be so difficult to follow through with you’ll just give up.

For my family we started by paying a lot more attention to recycling and reduced our “garbage” volume to about a third. Next we moved on to reusable bags, then walking whenever it was practical. Our latest change is in green waste disposal. Food waste that used to go into the garbage can with a plastic liner we now save in a covered bucket. For the time being, we are still sending it to the dump (although not in a plastic bag so it can’t decompose), but that is just until I figure out how much green waste we generate and how much of our recyclables are compostable.

Yup, compost. Living in an apartment complex in big urban area presents a number of challenges that can limit getting involved in activities like composting. There are considerations like space allotments, local laws, and neighbor and building owner complaints. I have been looking at vermiculture and vermicomposting (raising worms and composting with there help) as a good way to convert our green waste and keep it out of a landfill. Because there are some technical aspects of this, it is a project that requires a little forethought and preparation. I am taking my time and working out the bugs (no pun intended), before I make the commitment to my family, the environment and our potential new partners, the worms.

Some of the things to think about if you are considering urban composting are: how much compostable waste does my family produce? How long will it take to process that volume of compostable waste? What is the best system to use? The first one requires taking the time to figure out realistically how much waste you generate and how much of it is compostable. Compostable waste includes most “green” kitchen waste, pretty much all organic matter fall into this category with a couple of exceptions: fatty and greasy waste and bone. These are not good to add to the mix because they take longer to process and generate unpleasant odors and attract bugs. Most other organic matter can breakdown with little to no offensive smells, especially with the help of our worm friends. We ca also include a lot of our paper and cardboard waste in there too, further reducing the volume of material that needs to be transported away.

As you have probably guessed, this is my current long term project. I will be posting more as things progress, for now I will leave you with this…

Think about what small things you can do to make a difference and give them a try.

Credit Card Conundrum

Among my families decisions to green up our lives and become more self sufficient we started making other changes, an ethical stand if you will. In another post I wrote a bit about making the ethical decision to support local business as much as possible and stop supporting the mega corps. In one sense we had already started to take a stand on the mega corps over a year ago. We made the decision to close all of our credit accounts as soon as we could, and that’s what we have been doing ever since. This week I close out, interestingly enough, our Wal-Mart card which will leave us with only one credit account and that one will be closed soon too.

Last night we watched the documentary “Maxed Out.” This one is about the credit crisis taking place in the United States, not that this is a new thing mind you, we have been lead down this road by the financial industry for quite some time. My best guess is that the credit industry turned to the dark-side some time in the early 1980s. A time when excessive spending was some how going to make things better for all of us. Unfortunately for us the opportunistic financial industry swooped in like a hawk on a field mouse sunning itself on a lazy summer day, scooping us up with talons of mock generosity making credit cards available to people who in previous decades would have been laughed at just for applying. With the encouragement of the financial industry, spending beyond our means has become an American pastime.

Jump forward two decades. The mock generosity of the past has now turned into the predatory lending practices of the 21st century. “Maxed Out” takes a good look at the credit card industry and the financial industry as a whole. In my case it has been fairly easy to say “piss off” to a majority of the financial industry, unfortunately it is virtually impossible to get away entirely, the banks have seen to that. Just try and cash a check without paying an unreasonable fee, especially if you don’t have a bank account. Most likely you would have to turn to one of those check cashing places, but look out, most of the check cashing businesses are owned by big banks, even the ones that look like local mom-and-pops stores. Don’t be fooled by that hometown storefront, there is a good chance it’s owned by Wells Fargo, the largest player in the check cashing industry, coincidently the fourth largest bank in the U.S., oh and they are in the money order business too.

For many Americans, getting free from debt is one of our biggest goals, but getting there can be a really tough task. Most of us under 50 folks were not raised thinking about money the way our previous generation was. A penny saved is a penny earned, and other phrases may have been heard around the house, but they didn’t affect us the the same as they affected our grandparents. To the generation that was there in the 1930s, it was an important part of life. And here we are, learning those lessons all over again.

For me, getting rid of credit cards and “financial products” is a matter of self sufficiency and keeping my money tied to the local economy. If I don’t have the money for something, I save for it, or make due without it. Keep in mind that the financial industry is selling you services, just like any other mega corp sells you a product. When you use there services, they take money from you, and move it some where else, far away from your community.

One of the reasons we get into debt is trying to make things “better” for our kids. The best investment we can make for our children’s future is not passing along our debt. Something they really could use is a solid understanding about how the money we spend is circulated through the economy. In short, when be buy from the mega corps, and borrow (using credit) to make those purchases, out of every dollar we spend locally, around 5% stays in the local communities economy, if we are lucky. When we spend at locally owned businesses, with money we have, in our pocket, we can keep 80% or better in our own community, and ultimately pay around the same or even less by not including fees and interest.

Basic economics says that a consumer economy will inevitably fail. For the U.S. as a whole we can see it in our trade deficit and the inexplicably high national debt, for individuals it’s there in our mounting credit deficit, our credit cards, charge cards, car loans, and mortgages. There are a bunch of economists that believe our current recession is the continuation of what is already a second depression. A depression that will have to run it’s course deeper down the economic well before anything will truly stabilize it.

As a problem solver, my experience tells me, that when a problem is complex the best solution is to reduce everything down to the minimum necessities. When things are stable at that basic level then, and only then, a slow and steady growth can occur; in this case, for me and my family at least, it means going back to subsistence, back to a simpler, less complex lifestyle, well within our means. Decision making is a lot easier when you know exactly how much you have to spend, now shifting or wiggling or anticipating options, its ether yes we can or no we can’t. Not always fun, but liberating in many ways.

So where does all of this lead us? For me and mine it is comes down to; keep money as local as possible, while it is yours and when you spend it, don’t use credit, and as always support locally produced goods, services, and merchants. It is the American Middle Class that will save our economy, not the government or big business.

The Social Contract

Last night we watched a couple of documentaries; “No Impact Man: The Documentary” and “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price”.

No Impact Man was a decent film, a bit slow in pacing but it seemed to be a relatively honest effort at showing the Beaven family during there one year experiment. While I respect Colin’s efforts, and certainly the fruits that have come from the experiment, it didn’t seem like a very well thought out “experiment”. The project seems to have been born as a whimsical promotional stunt for a documentary and book. In the end though Colin seems to have taken things in a much more serious light and grown personally from the experience.

For anyone interested in reducing their carbon footprint and making a serious commitment to greening up their life No Impact Man is an interesting look at the extreme commitment of the Beaven’s for one year. The movie is available on Netflix instant view.

A movie we watched a while ago that may help with making up your mind about buying locally produced food is “Food Inc” also available on Netflix instant view. This documentary can be harsh at some points in the film but it is a very good look at the industrialization of the food production in the United States and how that has caused some major damage to the food structure and our economy.

The other film we watched last night, you guessed it… on Netflix instant view, was “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price”. This film was obviously made with an agenda but that doesn’t change the core facts of the movie. Wal-Mart is just the biggest example of how large mega-corps are killing the U.S. economy, there are many others who are not much better and are flagrant violators of their contract with society.

I am all for free enterprise but there is a social responsibility that comes with being a huge corporation and when that responsibility is being ignored it is our duty as consumers to remind the bad citizens of that responsibility. Wal-Mart is a big offender because it breaks its social contract in so many ways. Overseas production, unfair competition practices, poor worker compensation, criminal negligence, flagrant disregard of the law, and more. All of these are offences committed by Wal-Mart on a daily basis; any one of them alone should give us pause as to a companies commitment to their social contract, but all of the at once, it is obvious that they don’t care about there societal obligations.

After some time pondering the subject matter and a growing sense of my own neglect of societal obligation, I to propose another experiment…

Take responsibility for getting to know who you buy from. Find out if they are a socially responsible person or company. Try to buy as much of your goods as possible from local merchants and producers. Try whenever possible to buy products and services made in the U.S. While it is almost impossible today to buy only products stamped Made In The U.S.A., make your best effort, if given the choice between two products chose the one that contributes more to the U.S. economy.

Change can only be made if we commit to using the power we have, the one thing businesses of any size need, customers money. When we chose the mega-corps small businesses die, when we chose local merchants we give power back to the community.

Motivation should be the word lurking in the back of your mind, “What is this guy’s motivation?” Well here it is, I want to see the American economy improve in a sustainable structure and the only way that will happen is if there is a resurgence of an endangered species, The American Small Business. Without small community business the economy will continue to collapse. That is my motivation.

My commitment to you is to take responsibility and do everything I can to buy locally and support the local economy and help regrow American Small Business.

* As of today I am going to stop buying from mega-corps and seek out local merchants to buy goods from.
* As of today I am going to get to know who I do business with and find out if they are keeping to their social contract.

Will you join me and take up the challenge?