What I couldn’t reveal until today!

31 Aug 2014 Leave a comment

This past Friday, I promised a “big reveal” of the specifics of what has been taking up so much of my thoughts for the immediate past – and caused me to spend so much time at the computer. This is it! …

Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

Sorry for the silence! Time to tell you what’s up with me – and there’s breaking news!

29 Aug 2014 7 comments

Where to begin?

OK. Bicycling. My cycling peaked in early July and has fallen off precipitously since then. At first, it was an intentional few days rest which I kept extending. Then my attention became focused on Tiny House issues – both one for me AND a place where I’ll live once I have one. Not a specific place, but I discovered others who are, to some degree or another, pursuing the dream of an intentional community of tiny house residents (and most likely owners). And this has, frankly, diverted me from regular cycling for exercise. And even on days that I wake up intending to use the bike for a local errand, I get so focused on the brainstorming I’m doing that I suddenly look up, see the clock, and realize that I no longer have TIME to do even that local errand by bike!

I’m struggling to discipline myself to keep regular cycling in my life. It IS important to me! It is important for my health, for my sanity, and for my still deeply held desire to transition to a car free life.

And another thing has changed – for the worse. I’m smoking more. At the height of my training for the Climate Ride, my smoking was down – a lot! And I was coming fairly close to deciding to – this time – really quit! I’ve got an e-cig, and I’ve trained myself to use it when cycling (to the point that I often leave the real cigs at home when I ride). E-cigs certainly fulfill the demands of the nicotine addiction of smoking. But they aren’t a complete, instant replacement for cigarettes.

How so? If you’ve never been a smoker, you may not realize that a significant part of the habit is ritual. Reading the paper in the morning with a fresh cup of coffee and a cigarette. The muscle memory of just holding the cigarette, much less taking a puff, holding it, blowing it out, and trimming the ash. The mental break when you’ve been in a no smoking environment (say at work) and you step outside for a cigarette. Every smoker (and ex smoker) can tell you multiple different rituals surrounding smoking that is such an integral part of their daily life that it’s hard – REALLY hard – to give up – even if the nicotine itself is totally replaceable with e-cigs.

I’ve managed to carve out a few places in my life where I’ve broken free of my rituals. It’s far easier to simply NOT include smoking when you add a NEW ritual to your life (see my cycling – above). And I’ve forced myself to keep my e-cigs FAR more accessible than my real cigs while I’m driving. I haven’t completely eliminated smoking while driving, but I have reduced it significantly.

What has tripped me up is itself a ritual. Most of the work I’ve been doing has been computer work at my desk at home. And there, I constantly find that I’ve lit a cigarette while I work. And yes, I mean I’ve started it (nearly) unconsciously – and often smoked half (or more) before I notice it!

But things are coming to a point that I’m likely to be doing LESS at my desk – and more in face to face groups – no smoking allowed groups – of similarly obsessed people. So I’m hoping that this increase is, indeed, temporary. And that my lessening desk time – and increasing cycling time – will get me back on the downward trend.

What else? As I continue to refine the estimated costs of living car free in a tiny house – revise DOWNWARD – the possibility of my choosing to retire instead of going back to work increases. It may be cheap enough that I can stretch my funds so I never HAVE to work again! I’d rate the possibility of my choosing to retire now (or soon)  at < 20%, but that is far higher than I’d rated it just 3 months ago! I’m excited (or perhaps relieved) enough by the possibility that I’ve started to get a bit more frugal in how I’m living – beyond the savings I’ve already enjoyed through reducing use of my car.

So what exactly is it that I’m working on? I can’t tell you – yet! Along with a few other people, I’m creating an organization (and website) that we believe will fill a growing need – a place for people who are interested in issues specific to tiny house villages. It’s the group setting – and the need to be “legal” in the eyes of the local authorities – that make them distinct from the issues of “how should I build my tiny house” and “where can I live in it once it’s built”. On the latter, MOST people living in tiny houses are doing so illegally. They’re in someone’s back yard where the authorities are unaware that they are “camping” in a “home built RV” (which isn’t even legally an RV in the eyes of the DMV – and hence can’t be licensed!) – something that most jurisdictions don’t allow for more than a few days at a time. Or they’re far off in the boonies – in an unincorporated area – with their nearest neighbor is far enough away that they don’t care – in the least – what you’re doing. Tiny home villages are too big to escape the notice of the local authorities. And many of us who are interested in tiny village living want it to be near – or in – a highly urbanized area where neighbors ARE likely to react negatively to something so far out of the mainstream happening near them.

We already have a name. And a website. (Although it’s highly unlikely the public – or even tiny house enthusiasts – will stumble on it before we publicize it.)  And we’re talking about how to govern ourselves. And we think that when we go “public” – most likely in two days at a local meeting of tiny house enthusiasts (not tiny house VILLAGE enthusiasts) – we’ll grow fairly quickly. So have patience. I promise that all will soon be revealed. In fact, if you want to see it as soon as you can, subscribe to comments to THIS post. I guarantee that the first place I’ll announce it to friends and family will be as a follow up comment to this post as soon as I return home after the “debut”!

One other thing: I’ve met and befriended someone else nearby who not only want to live in a tiny house village, but his concept of the structure of his ideal village – both physical and social – is nearly identically aligned with mine! (You know who you are.) I’m certain that if we can find 2-3 more people we’ll end up forming a core group organizing around one of two specific sites that he and I have already identified!

Stay tuned … and subscribe to the comments for the big reveal!

<5 minutes later> Whoops! I just posted this, then tried (anonymously) to subscribe to comments. It’s not an option unless you MAKE a comment! So I’ve already made a comment – be sure to scroll down beyond the ads (which are the price I force you to pay so that I don’t have to pay WordPress to host this blog) and read my comment!

And of course, feel free to comment yourself!

Steve

Categories: About Me, Life Choices

Some thoughts on mainstream media coverage of today’s earthquake in California

24 Aug 2014 Leave a comment

Crap! Now writing this a second time – I accidently hit the “back arrow” button on my keyboard before I saved the draft!

First off – I’m OK. So is my home. As is my family – they’re farther from the epicenter that I am.

The quake woke me. I rode it out in bed, which was shaking gently, while being alert to jump to a door frame if it got any heavier. It lasted 20-25 seconds and would have actually been pleasant had I not felt certain that it meant likely far more severe effects for others.

I was on Twitter within two minutes – and I was NOT the first! Close (one of the first 10 tweets using the hash tag #earthquake), but not first.

As I started scanning various media (about 5 minutes after the quake), here’s what I found:

  • Twitter was the first I saw, but our local 24/7 AM radio news station was likely as quick. KCBS has live hosts and producers 24×7.
  • Initially KCBS coverage was entirely speculation interrupted by callers with their personal reports. This is understandable as NONE of our local outlets have reporters in the field 24/7. And even if they did, it would be quite unlikely that they would have been anywhere close to the affected area. Face it, breaking news in the Bay Area rarely comes from the affected area. To their great credit, KCBS did have the first interviews with seismologists and public safety agency representatives.
  • Next to appear was a Google Alert – with coverage initially mostly drawn from Twitter, but updated with other coverage fairly soon.
  • Local TV outlets took longer. Again, this is understandable given this happened at a time (3:22 AM on a Sunday morning) when all of them are showing pre-recorded and (mostly) paid programming. I doubt ANY of them normally has anyone involved in programming – producer, technician, or personality – on site at that time.

I do quibble with the initial TV visuals – what I saw during early TV coverage was either:

  • Still pictures I’d already seen on Twitter – WITHOUT attribution! Or
  • Screen grabs from websites, mostly USGS, which I’d already seen either by seeking them out myself or following tweeted links.
  • But what upset me most was 2 stations who had rotating visuals from web cams – none of which were from anywhere close to the affected area

Double Crap! I just hit that dastardly “back arrow” key again! At least I’d done a bit of manual “save draft”ing. And I just took a look at the wordpress.com settings – there is NOT setting to auto save drafts periodically! Anyway …

But it wasn’t the local coverage that compelled me to set myself down in front of the keyboard today. Even the national coverage by itself (and which I’ll be commenting on) didn’t upset me enough. What tilted the balance toward “I need to write about this” was a couple of Twitter conversations I saw, plus one in which I participated, where one (or more) of the involved Tweeps were indignant that MSNBC had NOT switched to wall to wall earthquake coverage. As I didn’t think I could argue my side well in the limiting confines of 140 character tweets (less links and mentions), here I am.

Nationally, I’ve seen (or heard about) 2 general broadcast network media responses:

  • Continuing normal programming, but injecting short updates at the top of each hour, with updates replacing what would normally be teaser segments. (MSNBC only)
  • Wall to Wall coverage that consisted, at least initially, of 98% titillation, occasionally interrupted by new information. (All the others)

Of these, I think – in a better media environment (I’ll get to this later) – the first choice was the correct one.

Why?

When all else is said and done, I think we’ll look back on today’s quake as a small, mostly local disaster. I don’t want to play down the pain and suffering that those affected are going through, nor the agony that is undoubtably being experiences by their friends and family across the nation.

But face it. It’s not a NATIONAL disaster with only:

  • 100 injuries, only 3 of them serious (as of 10:30 AM PDT)
  • Less than 30,000 having lost power
  • A few houses burning
  • And property damage that could well have been avoided had the property owners acted on the long known dangers of earthquakes of this magnitude. These counts are exceeded regularly by hurricanes, blizzards, landslides, floods, blizzards, and all but the smallest tornados.

A natural disaster of this size isn’t going to result in a national conversation on any issue (although I devoutly wish that it would engender a national discussion on the state of our infrastructure, but I predict it won’t) – and we need to have some significant national discussions on other issues.

For that reason, I think wall to wall national coverage isn’t justified. It’s a diversion. It’s a diversion from many important, continuing stories including:

  • Ferguson and what it (and other recent police killings) reveal about the systematic oppression of people of color that is structural in our society.
  • Police Militarization
  • Gun control
  • ISIS (or IS, or ISIL, or whatever they’ve chosen to call themselves THIS hour)
  • Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people in Israel itself, the West Bank, and most especially the Gaza Strip. Multiplied by our governmental support which should be a national embarrassment, but isn’t.
  • Rick Perry’s indictment and related stories – because he’s (still!) considered a contender for the 2016 GOP Presidential nomination
  • And I’m sure most of you can easily add 3-4 OTHER stories to his list.

We should be having serious family, local, regional, and national discussions about ALL of these. And in the long run, they are ALL far more important to the health of our society than today’s quake.

And that’s just what Steve Kornacki (poorly) and Melissa Harris-Perry (superbly) did today.

And Sunday mornings have traditionally been reserved for the long(er) form shows that attempt to have just these conversations.

And yet, believe it or not, I can’t fault the news directors and producers who chose to go wall to wall!!! Why not?

First, it was the right choice for LOCAL media. From the local point of view, this is a BIG thing that’s happening NOW.

And it was the right choice for all the national networks save MSNBC. Why? Because the Sunday shows have ALL degenerated into crap! MSNBC alone had programming already scheduled that was more important than the quake.

Why do I characterize these shows as crap? Most of you will already know and agree, but I’ll still illuminate:

  • Hosts: Right leaning centrists at best, rabid right wing partisans at worst (yes, I’m talking about Fox) who don’t ask serious questions and don’t challenge their guests when they make outrageous statements

I have to divert here for a minor rant about MSNBC:

Can you believe that a guest on Up With Steve this morning implied that Travis county Texas DA Rosemary Lehmberg is a cannibal? Yes, this white male piece of shitte likened her DUI arrest to the actions of Hannibal the Cannibal!!! Even worse, host Steve Kornacki let it pass without challenge!

Ah well, back to your normal programming …

  • Guests: It’s quite rare to see a person of color. It’s more common to see a woman, but it’s still nowhere near enough compared to their proportion of the population, or even their proportion among our leaders (elected or unelected). And (again except for MSNBC) they NEVER have guests from outside the top 1% (OK, maybe the top 5%). The rest of us, regardless of any minority group we might be associated with, aren’t represented on these shows at all.

    Further, almost all guests are actively pushing an agenda. And almost all of those are pushing a right wing agenda! Seriously, what do John McCain, David Frum, Charles Krauthammer, and Maureen Dowd still have ANY credibility?

  • Choice of stories covered: From what I’ve heard, the choice of stories is almost overwhelmingly represented by those that titillate. Most of them, as presented, consist primarily of thinly disguised gossip! Frankly, I rarely watch any of these shows, but I do make a point of checking in every couple of months in the hope (so far proven to be a vain hope) that even one of them has adopted higher standards. Thus I felt it necessary to start this section with “From what I’ve heard …”

So in short, these shows are crap. And I can’t blame the decision makers at the networks for choosing to jump to ANY other programming they can reasonably justify to their supervisors.

Well, that’s my two cents (okay, more like 7 cents). I’ve got to go now to be an extra for the protest scene being filmed today for “Citizen’s United, the Movie”, so I’m NOT going to take the time for a review and edit before publishing this, but I reserve the right to do so when I have more time.

Please feel free to comment!

Steve

Categories: Politics Tags: ,

A response to Digby – actually to David Atkins

05 Jun 2014 1 comment

To the regular readers of this blog: I’m sorry that I haven’t been blogging here. Since last October or November, I’ve been a bit obsessed with – finally – getting into shape through bicycling. So much so that I started another, bike specific blog, which you can see here. I’ve now (knock on wood) acquired the habit of exercise, so I’m no longer as obsessed, and will start turning my attention to other things, including this blog.

I write today because, in Tuesday’s election, I cast my vote in statewide elections for third parties – Green across the board except for the Governor’s race, where I couldn’t resist voting for Cindy Sheehan. And just now, I read this blog post of David Atkins on Digby’s Hullabaloo blog: It’s time to repeal the top-two primary in CaliforniaPlease read it now, as the rest of this post is my reply.

David,

In the State Controller’s race you identify as a brush with disaster, I was one of the voters for Laura Wells. And I wanted to explain my vote, and my reasoning behind it. Normally, I would have replied as a comment on your blog post, but it seems there are no comments enabled on the Hullabaloo blog, thus I’m responding here.

Among the many things that I consider dysfunctional in our country (and I’m sure we agree on most), one that particularly raises my hackles is that I have rarely felt free to vote for a candidate I really want in an election. In my 35 year voting history, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve voted FOR a candidate, instead of a strategic vote AGAINST a Republican with a chance of winning who I detested. It is for this reason that I welcome California’s top two primary. Quite simply, it allows me to, occasionally, vote my conscience instead of my fears.

Generally, I consider myself a Democratic Socialist, with heavy Green leanings. But until the top two primary was enabled, I switched parties often – between Democratic and Republican. I registered as a Democrat when I’ve thought the Republicans had no chance of winning (allowing me to choose the best of a usually weak Democratic field) and as a Republican when I felt there was a strong Republican with a chance of winning (and my vote was for any OTHER Republican – except the truly crazy ones. And no, I didn’t vote for Orly Taitz)

I consider our two party system to be broken. And I see the top two primary as a possible (although nowhere near certain) way to attempt a fix. It allows third party candidates to have some hope, albeit small, of being considered seriously in a general election. Is this likely to happen? No. At least not for quite a few election cycles. Will it create problems? Yes. It already has. Not only in the case you cite, but look at the CA 25 congressional race. The top two were both Republicans. While the demographics of this district make it unlikely that a non-Republican could win the seat, the top two primary has ensured that there will be no voice with even a thin veneer of reason in the race this fall.

But no solution – including the status quo ante – is without problems. What matters are the lessons we learn from those problems. And the more distinct methods we try, the more problems we discover, and the more we can learn from them. Will we learn from Tuesday’s primary? That remains to be seen. I’m hoping that the takeaway is: That the parties who fail to rally around a single candidate in the primary will be at high risk of not even appearing on the general election ballot. This should scare both major parties.

So what IS the solution? Frankly, I don’t think there is a single solution. #GetMoneyOut would help immensely. As would reclaiming the part of the Commons we call the airwaves, in the form of some sort of requirement for (nearly) equal airtime for ALL candidates – regardless of ability to pay. As would a few others I think you and I could both list.

But the solution is not to return to the status quo ante – at least not yet. Two election cycles is – in my opinion – not anywhere close to enough to declare the top two primary to be a failure.

And as for my vote for the Green in the State Controller election? Frankly, it stemmed from a lack of THIS voter’s education.  I freely admit that I took NO time to look at the record or positions of ANY candidate. And that too is a problem, as I’m certain that I’m only one of many – perhaps most – of the people who voted Tuesday who had no idea of the positions of their chosen candidate. But in my (slight) defense, I did have a clue: the party affiliation of my chosen candidate.

I invite you to reply in the comments.

Sincerely,

Steve

Categories: Politics

Please help me and/or the climate.

12 Mar 2014 Leave a comment

Greetings!

In a nutshell, the subject says it all: Please help me and/or the climate.

How? Donate in support of my riding in the California Climate Ride 2014

Why? Well, that’s a slightly more complex question, and it relates to my use of “and/or” in the subject!

I expect that most of you reading this post are with me in my belief that stopping – or dare we dream: REVERSING – climate change is the biggest challenge faced by us as a species. For you, the “and” applies. But for a few of you who aren’t convinced: Surprise! I’m not going to try to convince you here! But it won’t hurt to take a look at my Fundraising Page where I detail the more personal reasons I’m riding.

Instead, I ask you to contribute to support me in my effort to get myself into shape. Here’s what I’ve done so far:

  • About 8 years ago, I weighed in at 260 lbs. From then until the beginning of October, 2013, I dropped to 232 lbs solely by adopting one simple eating rule: Don’t stuff myself!
  • However, I remained a slothful couch potato. Eating less does nothing (OK, very little) towards decreasing the risks associated with my lifestyle over the last 30 years. So in late September, I finally followed through on my intention (stated early in 2013 – before my Peregrination) to get myself in shape. How? I started riding my bicycle! Regularly. Almost Daily.
  • Since then, I’d got my weight down to 227 lbs by the end of January, when I realized that the first long term goal I’d set for myself (riding to/from the Eat Real Fest) this coming September was something which I was already capable of doing. Easily. And I needed a new, more ambitious goal. And by happy coincidence, within 24 hours of realizing this, I found that my favorite 501(C)3 activism group, Transform California, was fielding a team for the California Climate Ride 2014 – 4 days of cycling from San Francisco to San Francisco through the heart of the wine country totalling roughly 250 miles. At this point training began in earnest.
  • With the advent of the rains, in the first week of February, I joined a gym – and I’ve gone a minimum of 3 times/week since, more often 4 or 5 times/week – in addition to my riding activity.
  • As of this morning, I weighed in at just UNDER 215 lbs! And I’m no longer short of breath!
  • Since September, I’ve ridden 1,485 miles. And I think that’s farther than I’ve driven in the same time!
  • Since I adopted a fitness tracking app on December 21, I’ve “burned” 56,837 calories.

Your contribution will encourage me to keep going!

Finally, if all you want to do is wish be “Happy Birthday” (less than two weeks away), then the best wish I have is for you to support me.

Thanks in advance!

Steve

More detail on the community/business I’m brainstorming

01 Feb 2014 Leave a comment

Greetings!

Yesterday I included some ideas I’ve been thinking about regarding the community I’d like to create. Today I started to compose an email replying to a couple of questions that a family member asked in response to yesterday’s post. But it morphed into quite a bit MORE detail. And while I did actually email it to my relative, I also realized that the rest of you might like to see it! So here it is, copied/pasted from my sent email.

What I was asked specifically is:

  1. Am I thinking of joining an existing community, or starting my own, or joining a group that is in the process of forming?
  2. Are you thinking of CoHousing?

OK. He asked me other things, but the other stuff isn’t really germane to how I want to live – family stuff – so I didn’t include that part! So without further delay:
<begin cut/paste from email>

Regarding Tiny House community questions.
I’m open to joining one, but I don’t know of any that are open. On Tuesday, I’m meeting with a local Tiny House guru outside of Sebastopol. Rumor has it that he is planning a community near there. If it’s going to be near there, then I doubt I’ll be interested in joining in (I envision a closer to urban location), but you never know! For a number of reasons – some of which are detailed below – I’m hoping to find an abandoned, non-toxic, light commercial or industrial site within 1/3 to 1/2 a mile of International Blvd/Mission Blvd in Oakland/San Leandro between the Fruitvale and Bayfair BART stations. Why? Both Oakland and San Leandro have a lot of properties that fit the description (except perhaps the “non-toxic” criteria). both cities are eager for “infill” development, and AC Transit is building a Bus Rapid Transit line from downtown Oakland to Bayfair BART. The line will run on International Blvd/Mission Blvd in lanes dedicated to the bus, at high frequency. This would allow me to remain in the area which I’ve always loved AND satisfy the “good access to transit” criteria I outline below.
I’ve been involved with a couple of cohousing groups – at the encouragement of my mother! When she decided that San Benito Road was more house than she cared to be responsible for, she looked at a number of different lifestyle options, and she really liked the idea of cohousing. I attended a couple of meetings of groups that were in their infancy with her, then 5-8 more without her. She opted out because she didn’t like the people. It took me longer to opt out, and for a completely different reason: frustration! Classic cohousing generally operates on a consensus seeking model, with escape clauses (usually votes in the 75-85% range) in case consensus fails. And until building is done, new members (and there WILL be fairly high turnover) have to agree with all decisions (except perhaps, the rules governing the legal form the group has chosen to take) made prior to their arrival. This prolongs the pre-build process to a degree that I simply don’t want to endure.
So I’m currently just at the beginning of brainstorming an intentional community that shares many elements with cohousing. The key difference will be that, initially, I’ll be in control! In form – at least to the local authorities – it will be an RV park. As to ownership, I can see it eventually transitioning to a co-op, or a TIC community, or possibly remaining as a type B (benefit) corporation – which is the most likely form of the entity that I hope to establish to develop it (although some form of partnership might also be appropriate), and to manage it until a threshold occupancy is reached.
Where? I’ve got no real restrictions on what area of the country it will be in, but I do favor either the East Bay or somewhere in the Willamette Valley. One FIRM criteria is VERY easy access to frequent public transit – a must if I want to build a community of people who choose to go (mostly) car free. It will also need either fairly easy access to a car share service of some type, as there are times – hopefully infrequently – where even the car free person (or family) needs access to a car. An alternative might be for the community to own a car or two which residents have access to by reservation.
Since my vision of an intentional community includes lots of shared meals, those vehicles would be available for shopping on the day (or the day before) you are scheduled to cook, as shopping for (hopefully) 15-50 people results in a need to carry more groceries home than either bicycling or transit use allows – although you COULD do it with a bicycle and a decent cargo trailer! And there might be another reason that the community might have access to a light truck – and that relates to the business that I’m also brainstorming that will be co-located with the community: a “build your tiny house here” warehouse!
In the reading I’ve been doing about building tiny houses, a problem that many (most) people bring up is that their intended location for living in their tiny house is not suited to building it! At least 1/2 of the homes I’ve read about weren’t built on site, but were built elsewhere and trailered to their site. But trailering has it’s own problems. Unless you have a commercial driver’s license and a suitable tow vehicle, you can’t build a tiny home larger than 126 square feet – external dimensions! This is based on the largest trailer you can legally tow with just a class C license – and then only if you have a suitable tow vehicle. As most people going into tiny houses have no desire for a vehicle heavy enough and powerful enough to tow even this “Class C Max” trailer, they have to somehow arrange for a tow vehicle. And they may well have vehicle problems during construction as follows: How do they get materials TO their building site? Even the smallest houses require 4×8 sheet goods (plywood and/or analogs and rigid insulation) and 8 foot or longer lumber.
So here’s my business idea: a fairly cheap, non conditioned, quick erect (steel framed, aluminum sided) warehouse on a slab. Sized to be able to have 3-5 tiny houses in various stages of building inside, plus a small office, tool lockup and showers. Building space would be leased, and the lease would include use of all tools, with a restriction on electric/pneumatic tools that the lessee must be “checked out” on each tool before they use it, with safety “refresher” classes offered every 2-3 weeks with a requirement that the lessee (and any designated assistants) attend at least one “refresher” every 6-8 weeks. Another thing that would be included? The warehouse would be STAFFED 15-20 hours/week both to provide an extra set of hands when needed and to accept delivery of building materials. The business would buy an old, full sized pickup truck that lessees could rent for a reasonable hourly fee for material runs, and the truck would ALSO be available as the community shopping vehicle. There MIGHT be a second vehicle – one that is rated to tow up to the largest trailered tiny house that isn’t considered an “oversize” load – and it would be available – with driver – for residents when they A) pick up the trailer which will become the foundation of their house, B) need to move it to/from a welder for customization and C) when they are ready to move their built house to their long term location for occupancy.
Are there details to work out? You betcha! Just off the top of my head:
  • How much space is needed per house under construction? Is it a multiple of the footprint of the trailer? Or a fixed amount? Or some combination?
  • Do I “flex” the space with easily removable markings designating each builder’s exclusive use space? (allowing more to be built simultaneously if they’re on the smaller side) How do I account (read charge) for houses of varying size if I don’t provide a fixed set of exclusive space delineations.
  • And what about liability? I’m pondering allowing lessees to use tools – many of which will be inherently dangerous? I intend to track down an industrial tool rental proprietor to pick their brains on this, as well as talk to the Berkeley Tool Lending Library – and a lawyer.
  • Speaking of lawyers – how do I even FIND a lawyer that’s reasonably conversant in the laws/regulations that pertain to this business? And would this lawyer be able to help with the organizational side of the business?
  • As to the organization, I don’t want it to be a sole proprietorship! While it’s likely that I’ll personally be both in charge of – and responsible for – this business initially, I want to build a mechanism into the business to gradually transfer ownership and management into the hands of the employees, or a corporate structure like a type B corporation – perhaps owned and operated by the community!
Phew! That was just 5 minutes of asking myself questions – I could spend at least another hour on the questions that need answering about the business. And I haven’t even TOUCHED questions about the community!!
I hope you don’t mind how much detail I’ve included. Frankly, were I trying to answer only your questions, I’d have been far more brief. But my Tuesday meeting is intended to be a brainstorming session with the Tiny House guru, and I needed to get these thoughts down so that I could provide him with a starting point. Your questions just – oh so conveniently – provided me with a good vehicle to organize my thoughts!
<end cut/paste from email>
As always, your comments are welcome!
Ta Ta for now!
Steve

Various Matters

31 Jan 2014 3 comments

Greetings,

It’s 7:20 AM. I’ve got coffee by my hand, and a light breakfast (1/2 a grapefruit) in my belly. The sun has officially risen, but as I’m shadowed by the East Bay Hills to the East – and closer in, another building in my complex, I have yet to see it, but that will change soon. I’ll let you know when I first see the sun.

First (of many) tangents: It’s now been almost 10 months since I stopped working, yet I still can’t sleep in! I thought that, after arising at 0445 for many years to be at work at 0600 (or for weekend political shows at 0500), I would slowly adjust my personal waking hours to coincide with what is ‘normal’ for most of the rest of the world. Yet despite no need to get up for work, and my weekend political start shifting to 0700 (see this post), I’m still usually – not always – wide awake at 0530. Perhaps that will slowly shift later and later. Perhaps not. I no longer care. I am what I am.

Back on track. Why am I writing now? A number of reasons. I’m long overdue for a post on this blog – and emailing it to my Peregrination email list, and the guilt of not updating my friends has finally risen to the point of action. Also, a number of things in my life have coalesced into some new directions, and I want to get them on the record. Finally, I have a short term question I’m asking myself that I would like feedback from my friends, blog readers, and family – and an action I’m asking in support of the likely answer.

Sunrise update – 0733 hrs – The sun has hit the tips of the trees outside my window. My sunrise won’t be long now.

Where to start?

I blogged on my arrival home from my Peregrination. It was brief. It said, essentially, that having absented myself from my home for almost 5 months, I was filled with self-disgust over the clutter I found in my home when I returned. And that all other Peregrination thoughts …

Sunrise update – 0735 hrs – I see the sun!

… would wait until I did a serious decluttering of my home. Much of September was spent doing that. And it’s continued to this day, and still continues. But I’ve now got the the point where I’ve had my sister’s family over both for a dinner party and for brunch on Christmas Day! I’ve had a number of ongoing plumbing problems fixed (brought to a head by my 17 year old hot water heater deciding it no longer wanted to give me enough hot water for a shower!).

I’ve given away almost all remnants of my 1990’s hobby of model railroading – mostly tools, PC board fabrication equipment (I designed a few boards to automate my club layout), model detailing parts, and most of the engines and rolling stock I’d accumulated, but not used in a decade. The remnants of my HO scale modeling are a couple of engines that are dear to me, and they are displayed in a nice case in the living room. I still have some N scale stuff in the garage that I have to deal with: A switching layout, a couple of cases of rolling stock – including a beautiful 15 car passenger set + 3 engines for the UP streamliner, and a couple of other things. I want to give my N scale modelling buddy first refusal on these (you know who you are – call!).

Once my modeling stuff was cleared, that enabled me to move my office into my bedroom, which in turn allows me to work on turning my 2nd bedroom (nee office) into a guest bedroom. However, since the beginning of July, my cousin has been living in that room, and he prefers to occupy it in more of a camping mode – sleeping bag on the floor with a thin air matters – than as a standard bedroom, so as long as he is there, finishing that particular project isn’t a priority. But I also freed up a 7 ft long folding table (that was previously my modeling work table in my bedroom). It’s moved – temporarily – to the living room where it give me invaluable space to start to declutter that part of the house. So far, I’ve used it to lay out many of my books – to agonize over which ones to divest. That in turn gave me space on my living room bookshelves to store much of the small appliances and speciality pots and pans I find myself using more and more as my love of cooking continues to grow. THEN I realized that I didn’t like the organization (or lack thereof) of my pantry. Again, the table allowed the space to implement a new plan: swap my appliance/pan storage with my pantry! So far, by dint of the available organizing space, I’ve been able to:

  • Empty my bookshelves of the pots/pans/serving dishes/small appliances – to the table
  • CLEAN THE BOOKSHELVES
  • Rearrange the bookshelves with books (except cookbooks) occupying the left 2 bookcases, with the 3 bookcases on the right destined for cookbooks (originally 2 shelves, now just one) and pantry.
  • Move the pantry to the bookshelves. My cousin will testify that I was surprised more than a few times by things I discovered in the pantry that I didn’t remember I had – and had recently purchased NEW for various recipes (capers, tahini and apple cider vinegar – just off the top of my head)
  • Clean the shelves in the pantry (all but 2 done – and they still lie empty)
  • Move the stuff on the table (see above) into the pantry.

I’ve still got stuff to do here. Clean the final two shelves. Finish another project I started (strip and re-season my cast iron. All pieces – 4 of them – currently stripped but not yet re-seasoned).

I’ve probably – OK, almost certainly – included far more details of decluttering that ANY of you really needed. Hey! It’s my nature to both ramble and to report too much details. But I recognize that (sometimes), so I’ll spare you a lot of OTHER details since I want to move on in this post to other things! Here’s the summary: I’m slowly, but fairly ruthlessly ridding myself of stuff I don’t use, and organizing the stuff I DO use so that it’s easy and convenient to actually use it!

So what’s next in my report? How I want to live. It’s actually fairly central to a number of OTHER realizations I’ve come to have about myself and my life.

Some background:

  • I own outright the condo that I currently call home. It’s a 2BR, 2BA, 1,200 sqft 2nd floor flat that I’ve come to realize is FAR more than I need. I’m also 1/2 owner of a 1,400 sqft 2BR, 2BA condo that was my mother’s. It’s located about 1/2 a mile from an on ramp to I-80 West just before the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge that is arguably the best place to be if you’re a commuter to San Francisco (or points south) who insists on driving, but doesn’t want to live in the city.
  • In addition to the above real property, I also have savings (both taxable and non-taxable), about 1/2 of it inherited, that a year ago I thought would allow me to both take my Peregrination, then live on for 3-5 years (if necessary) while I decided what else to do with my life.
  • I’ve wanted to “find” a calling. Something – likely political – that would ignite my interest enough to be central to my life and (hopefully) to provide enough income to let me live modestly – no longer relying on my savings. But I’ve found no single calling. There’s just too much wrong in the world to focus on one thing while ignoring (OK, not ignoring, but not investing much – if any time – in ) other equally important issues.
  • I want to live in an intentional community. One where I have my own personal space, but where community activity – particularly meals – are a part of life.
  • I started out with the idea that I wanted to move into a situation where it would be easy to choose to be car free. That has now evolved to a firmer statement: I want to live car free. I am going to live car free.
  • I want to live my values. What does that mean? Lots of things. The most important ones are:
    1. I want to severely reduce my carbon footprint. Living car free will be a big part of this, but not the only part. I also want to live “small”.
    2. I want the time to participate in politics.
    3. I want to be part of a community of like minded people.
    4. I want to work in an endeavour that supports my – and a few other people’s – desire for work that supports my values and provides a living wage.
    5. I want this work to be with/for an entity that reflects my newly crystallized belief that the solutions to our economic problems must be local, easy to spread, and most importantly NOT centered around profit for the investors.

Many of you may recall my prior post: Musings on how I want to live. I’ve now realized that 400-600 sqft is too much! I really don’t need even that much personal space. With the exception of the fairly large kitchen where I derive great enjoyment in cooking for myself and others – and the dining room table where I entertain, my living space has already evolved down to my 315 sqft bedroom/office/bath/closet. And all of these elements are themselves far larger than they need to be! With aggressive scanning of paperwork, moving of DVD’s to a media server, and reduction of my wardrobe (which is FAR larger than I really need), I can see myself reducing my needs to below 200sqft – exclusive of laundry/kitchen/dining facilities. Especially if I don’t have a car! Not painlessly – it’s HARD to say “I really don’t need this.” It’s even harder, once you’ve managed to say that, to get RID of it!

Yes, I could do a number of runs to the dumpster, but I prefer to take the time to find a way for those things that might be useful for others have a chance at reuse. Towards that end, unwanted books are going to a local free book exchange, clothes to a local rescue mission (and before you say “Wait! Aren’t you supporting a religion?” – yes, I am, slightly, but the local rescue mission makes sure ALL donations goes to those who need it – administration is funded through a completely separate fundraising stream – and there is no secular charity nearby that will redistribute the things I want reused), and anything else goes to my local – secular! – re-use enterprise: Urban Ore. To date, completely off the top of my head, I’ve rid my home of over 2 TONS of “stuff”, of which less than 200 lbs has gone to the landfill!

So how do I end up both living small, yet still enjoying my love of cooking? Answer: A Tiny House Community! One that I design myself. Because of zoning laws that are still stuck in the “American Dream” mode, it’s likely to be – on paper – an RV park. Yes, an RV park! But it won’t be the RV parks you see on the road, where people in huge RV’s stay while they travel around the country in gas spewing behemoths. Nor will it be what probably comes to your mind when I say “Trailer Park” – although it will likely consist of tiny homes built on trailers. It will have a hot tub with community showering facilities – which let’s people get clean without having to deal with a cramped shower or sit-bath in their individual homes – and the hot tub can be a focus of casual interaction with your neighbors. It will have laundry facilities, probably coin operated, definitely with LOTS of line drying space. It will have a common building with a well equipped kitchen, dining/lounging facilities. Perhaps – almost definitively – a shop. Common outdoor space with enough grass for the play we as Americans are accustomed to, but also with community food gardens. Most tiny houses built on trailers have the main (and almost always only) entry on the “back” of the trailer. These will be parked, backed in to a common COVERED walkway that connects a group of “spaces” to the common areas.

Ach. Again, I could go on with many details, but I’m still at the brainstorming stage. But there is one more thing I want to mention: Bike Parking.

Bike parking? Where did that come from? Well, that’s the final change in MY life that I want to tell you about.

As many of you know, one of my Peregrination goals was to get in shape. And as many of you know, that didn’t happen on the Peregrination. But it is happening now! Since the end of September, I’ve biked 123 out of the last 125 days – the only 2 non-biking days were due to illness. I’ve gone from gasping for breath after a fairly slow 3 mile ride to routinely riding over 10 miles. I’ve equipped my bike with cargo storage that allows me to do most of my shopping by bike. Since the Peregrination ended I’ve put over 1,050 miles on my bike – and only 1,200 miles on my car! At a guess, at least 400 of those automobile miles occurred before I started pedaling, and the remaining 800 include 1 trip to Sacramento (~200 miles round trip, including local travel in Sacramento) and quite a few far shorter trips with the car filled with books for the exchange or other stuff for Urban Ore or the Rescue Mission.  I’m only using the car to shop when I’m buying something that’s outside my normal biking range (about once/week), or going to a daytime event that isn’t well served by transit, or an event that starts or ends in the dark (as I’m not yet comfortable riding at night.) Also, I have yet to bike on a shopping trip where I’ll need to carry eggs. There’s enough potholes and poor pavement conditions between home and the places that I shop that I quite worried that eggs won’t survive the trip – no matter how well I might try to package them. I’m probably being paranoid here, but egg shopping hasn’t added to my car use as I integrate it with other car trips.

And I am getting into shape. In fact, I’m rushing to finish this post so I can try to do a 30 mile ride today! My current “best” is 25 miles, but I’ve got to start pushing it farther. Why? Glad you asked!

I’ve blogged every ride I’ve done since the end of September on my OTHER blog: Me and My Bike Sunday. Early on, I announced a goal: By the time the 2014 Eat Real Fest in Oakland rolls around, I’ll travel to and from it (13 miles each way) by bike. Well, that isn’t until the end of September, and I already have no doubt that (barring catastrophe) I’ll meet that goal easily. Thus it’s time for something more ambitious. And I’m very close to deciding what that goal will be: Take the 2014 California Climate Ride as part of the team from Transform - a non-profit centered around sustainability through transit and land use that I wholeheartedly support (and would LOVE to work for!). My ride today will be part of training for this 250 mile ride over 4 days in late May.

But I want your help – and your encouragement! I’ve promised that I will go for it if — nah, I have faith in my family and friends — WHEN I’ve received $300 in pledges to donate to Transform. So far, with only one tweet, I’ve got $50 pledged. I don’t want your money now! Nor to I want you to EVER send me money. What I want is your promise to support a good cause (Transform) as a way of encouraging me to keep getting healthier by adopting the goal of my participating in this ride,

So please, Pledge! How? Any way you want! Here are a few good ways:

  • Post a comment on this blog post with the amount you pledge
  • Email me (if you have my email) with the amount you pledge
  • On Twitter, publicly pledge an amount in a tweet directed at me: @sjdorst. Or if you want to be private AND I follow you, make it a DM.
  • Send me a LinkedIn message

I’m hoping to do another blog post over the weekend with more hoped for details of my RV park. I HAVE to do some brainstorming as I have a Tuesday meeting with a Tiny House advocate to educate myself as to the challenges I’ll face. But for now, I have to get on the bike!

Thanks – and remember to pledge!

Steve.

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