Wednesday, November 19, 2008

And Now For My Next Trick.......

I am currently living in Michigan at the Innovative Martial Arts dojo. The upside is that I have my kids 1/2 time and live and play with some of my closest friends (extended family really). The downside is that I'm living in Michigan where the economy has been terrible for years (it's also where the Big 3 Automakers are headquartered). If the Big 3 are allowed to collapse (and this seems likely), our economy will hemorrhage another 1.5 million jobs. The most solid hit will be on the chin of already punch-drunk and reeling Michigan.

I quit a solid contracting job in Ohio this summer (prompted by a demand by my ex-wife) and have been unemployed since. I loved the time with my kids this summer as well as my trip to South America, but with the economy in a tailspin I am starting to become seriously concerned for my family's future.

It looks like the U.S.A. is entering it's first depression since the 1930s. I am not going to bother pointing fingers here. Hopefully we can use this as an opportunity for retraining our workforce and redirecting our economy toward sustainable progress (this requires a governmental investment in education and sustainability) .

My personal story (and by extension my kids' story) is definitely complicated by this economic turmoil. I took a serious financial beating during and following my divorce and also had to leave the military to maintain custody of the Crumbgobblers. I had been trying to set up our family's finances to enable me to finally attend college, but lost everything with the divorce. Now with the unemployment rate locally approaching double digits, there are many people here with degrees (even advanced degrees) competing for underpaid work which they are overqualified for.

Many times now, I have been rejected out-of-hand for not having a degree. Most of these employers/recruiters have been unable to articulate what they were looking for that necessitated the formal credentialing (the majority do not even care what course of study was pursued). Of those that were able, most gave a list of traits and experiences that lined up with what I had gotten out of my military service. When I have pointed this out, most of them began looking at their feet and mumbling about policies and their hands being tied. It seems as if most people believe (consciously or not) that anyone who has bypassed college must lack the requisite intelligence or drive. It is amazing how little regard some people have for alternative forms of education, especially considering the number of people who have told me that college did not prepare them for their work or for real life. It's a head-scratcher.

Adding insult to this injury is my inability to simultaneously attend college and provide for my children (financially/ or if simultaneously working and attending school, with my time & attention). I served in 2 branches of the U.S. military (and am now considering a 3rd branch) with 3 specialties [USAF Security w/EST (SWAT) (inactive SECRET CLEARANCE), Army Infantryman, & Army Infantry Medic]. I have traveled extensively on 3 continents and have a very broad personal library exceeding 1100 volumes. After the military I have also been a welder, taxi driver, and salesman in addition to performing other miscellaneous work for fun and profit. For the past 11 years I've been raising children while riding this roller coaster. Recently I have been doing a bit of writing to begin sharing and documenting some of my research.

I would be absolutely thrilled to be able to finally attend college, but am having no luck in coming up with a way to make this a realistic possibility (financially) at present. My credit score is horrible due to the aftermath of my divorce, so loans aren't the answer. I am considering re-entering the military to reinstate my G.I. Bill benefits which expired while I was trying to recover from the divorce and raise small children. My hope is that I would be able to quickly earn a 2 year degree and improve my credit score while serving again. Then I would be able to go back into debt in order to get a bachelor's degree (or higher) and begin working full-time in the field of creative sustainability (my passion), rather than just volunteering and writing about the work of others.

I would love any advice or input on this. Hopefully it doesn't come across as whining, that is not my intent. Perhaps some of you know some things or people that I do not know, which could help me increase my positive impact.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Stuff I Want: Home Appliance Edition

This combination toilet/wash-basin uses the hand-basin water to load the toilet for the next flush at a 70% water savings over the standard practice of a separate toilet & sink. It also saves a great deal of space and simplifies plumbing: reducing manufacturing, purchasing and construction costs in addition to square footage requirements.

Another great idea is the super-efficient combination clothes washer/dryer, which requires 1/2 the space of even a stackable set.

By utilizing technologies like these and many of the ideas from ship-building and small-space living (think Tokyo apartment or Tumbleweed House here) it becomes much more appealing to think of living in a dwelling with a much smaller footprint (like the shipping containers from a post I wrote yesterday). I think we could get creative and seriously reduce our footprint, maintenance and expenses. By doing this we would be simultaneously raising our standard of living and freeing our time and energy.

I found these 2 featured products in a post on Worldchanging. (title link to post)

The 10 Most Fuel-Efficient Cars and SUVs (2009 models available in the USA)

The 10 Most Fuel-Efficient 2009 Cars and SUVs
See the Only 14 Models with Better Than 30 MPG
By Dan Shapley

I found this yesterday on thedailygreen. Let's think about this for a moment. The subtitle is "See the Only 14 Models with Better Than 30 MPG". This in the nation that is home base for "The Big 3" auto manufacturers. Also the same nation that endured long gas lines and rationing in the 1970s and perpetual military involvement in the middle east for many years to ensure that we keep getting our fix. The U.S. government is like a battered woman protecting her abuser (pimp?) from the police.

Coming in at #1 on thedailygreen list is the 2009 Toyota Prius. Fuel Economy= City: 48 mpg/ Highway: 45 mpg

The top reply to the article brings up the point of 2 diesel powered cars available in Europe, but not in the U.S. The more interesting of these is the Volkswagen Lupo 3L TDI passenger car (pictured), advertised by Volkswagen as “the best mileage production car in the world”. In 2000 it was driven around the globe for over 20,000 road miles with an average fuel efficiency of 118mpg!!! This is almost exactly 2.5 times the efficiency achieved by the much-loved and iconic Toyota Prius. Click here for the U.S. standard to metric conversion calculator. Volkswagen engineers are working on a super-economical motor that could go 300 miles on only one gallon of fuel. The Aptera (pictured below) already achieves this, and provides seating for two, which is double the number of people I typically see commuting together during rush hour drives.

Let's not forget electric cars, compressed air cars, mass transit, bicycles and other methods of getting around when we begin seriously overhauling our transportation system. With the U.S. auto industry looking like it may be going under due to a lack of demand, maybe now is the time to lobby the government to begin demanding that these alternative vehicles be made available in the U.S. This would have the additional benefit of forcing U.S. industry to once again become competitive to keep up.

Let President-elect Obama know your thoughts at If enough of us do this, the government and industry may finally begin to get the idea. Remember that you vote for change (or maintaining the status quo) everyday with your dollars, and through how you use your time and energy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Some Recent Developments in Solar Energy

Today I discovered 2 exciting and complementary (recent) developments in solar energy technology. The first is an article by Mike Chino, which I found on Inhabitat. This article covers research by the Ohio State Institute for Materials Research regarding a new hyper-efficient solar material they have developed, which is "able to absorb energy from all spectrums of visible light at once."

The second is an article I discovered at openecosource covering research from MIT. Researchers there have developed a new method for storing solar energy based on photosynthesis.

These technologies are expected to be available to consumers in about a decade.


I just discovered a fantastic resource called openecosource with a very comprehensive overview offered through a large number of open-source links (thanks are due to Linus Torvalds for popularizing open-source). Think of wikipedia, but with a different format. Maybe it's time for an eco-focused wikipedia to streamline research and give a great one-stop starting point for people just coming up to speed on their environmental education. (if one already exists please comment with the link)

Shipping Container Housing (and other uses)

My sister Amy sent me a link for a site about using shipping containers as housing and for various other projects like a self-contained BlackBox Datacenter, offices, or emergency shelter (which they are ideally suited to).

[Through the efforts of many designers, builders and eco organizations, the surplus of shipping containers from China has diminished greatly. The result of two years of publicity and awareness has stimulated a growing trend to construct housing, offices, and apartments using the base of the standard Shipping Container. Much of my statistics and information have come from the LA Port Authority, ISBU Association International, Bob Vila, and the Green Mechanical Council who are one of the main organizers of EcoBuild America. The exposure of the problem, combined with the incredible strength and ease of shipping container based construction has truly turned the problem into one of the fastest growing building trends globally.
...lemons to lemonade.

For many reasons, it's the strongest mobile or stationary structure in the world built to withstand typhoons, tornadoes, hurricanes and even earthquakes. One or more of these incredible steel modules are the safest superstructure for a home, school, office, apartment, dormitory, storage unit, emergency shelter. ...where would you rather be in a storm, hurricane or earthquake? I think in a room made of strong Corten steel....(excerpted from title link site)]

I am interested in creative use (or re-use) of our available resources (especially those typically considered waste). I am fascinated by nature's incredible ability to maximize resource efficiency as well as having all waste serve as input for some essential process. Please send me any links (or your own ideas) related to this.

I just entered "shipping container" on google images and found this to be a great starting point for further research, check it out.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Looking Forward To Less Focus On Negative Politics

I am looking forward to being able to focus again on the positive aspects of the future we are mutually creating. I feel a bit burned out on politics (it's the negativity) and want to get back to covering the research and developments within the progressive/green community.

There are so many exciting discoveries being made and so much hope inherent in these discoveries, that I am becoming increasingly happy with what I am seeing. A whole new world is possible.

85,000 U.S. Foreclosures in October

The GOP legacy continues. By the time Bush leaves office the US housing market will almost surely exceed 1,000,000 foreclosed homes. It's hard to imagine why Americans said "enough" of the policies and attitudes that created this disaster.

As government and industry scrambled to stem the housing crisis, another 84,868 homes were lost to foreclosure in October, according to a report released Thursday.

Last month 279,561 struggling borrowers received foreclosure filings, including default notices, notices of auction sales and bank repossessions, according to RealtyTrac, an online marketplace for foreclosures. That's a 5% increase from September, and up 25% from October 2007.

"October marks the 34th consecutive month where U.S. foreclosure activity has increased compared to the prior year," said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac in a statement.

A total of 936,439 homes have been lost to foreclosure since the housing crisis hit in August, 2007.

(This was in

BUDDHA/ How much more will it take before we become serious about rebuilding our economy and our society? There are so many things we can do that will simultaneously reduce our environmental impact and personal expenses while fostering a greater sense of community with our fellow citizens.

We need to become informed and then demand changes in our zoning and planning regulations (and remember to vote with your dollars) to encourage more intelligent resource usage and community development. I am an advocate of civil disobedience regarding stupid laws which keep us from living sustainably and force people to work like dogs to meet their basic survival needs (especially senior-citizens and children). With a shift toward some of the already tested and proven ideas about intentional community and mass transit serving clustered developments we could enjoy a much higher standard of living, coupled with the benefits inherent in reduced fixed expenses and time demands. The range of options and their potential impact is truly astounding!(check out The Geography of Nowhere/ Home From Nowhere/ Your Money Or Your Life/ Communities Directory/ many of the books on voluntary simplicity/ and most of the links on this blog)

I am very interested in reader's thoughts and experiences around this topic. Please feel free to comment if moved to do so.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tim Brown: The Powerful Link Between Creativity and Play

It is time to get serious about creating solutions to the problems we find ourselves facing. And perhaps even beginning to transcend them by creating opportunities to simply leapfrog many of our present circumstances and impending difficulties. We should be maximizing the benefits of working together in an atmosphere of trust and mutual support (and the Crumbgobblers always remind me of the many benefits of serious play).

An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.-Victor Hugo

Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts. And never hope more than you work.-Rita Mae Brown

There's a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.-Oscar Levant

Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.-Martin Luther King Jr.

There can be no progress without deviation from the norm.-Frank Zappa

Neighborhood Swaps Can Save Money

Under 2 minutes. I have been pushing this concept for years now and using lawnmowers as my concrete example, so this just seemed to be begging to be posted. Simplify, simplify, simplify!!!

Keith Olbermann on Equal Opportunity for Love in the USA

Like Keith, I am straight, and also like Keith I cannot for the life of me understand people's incredible opposition to the right of homosexual couples to wed. I simply do not see how extending this right can be harmful. Between 10-15% of the human population is gay, and will remain so irrespective of the denial of marital rights. In a society so overwhelmed with war, economic depression, and inequality on countless fronts I believe that we should do everything possible to promote love, hope, and family stability for ALL of the people within our borders. Check out the video, Keith does a better job covering it than I can.

Friday, November 7, 2008

As The Dust Settles

I have been waiting for a change like this for many, many years. We are on the doorstep of a new world. I have been so wrapped up in this election that I have only now begun to come down from the rush of seeing us move past fear and selfishness and embrace hope, service, and possibility.

I was awake all night leading up to election day, in order to be first in line to cast my vote for Obama. I must admit to being skeptical about the process and to feeling an overwhelming surge of relief when watching McCain's concession speech. I had been bracing for voter suppression, rigged machines, legal challenges, etc. This has finally given me confidence in our process. As Churchill said "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.".

Where do I even begin to focus on the profoundly positive results of this change and the unbelievable global response to it? Let's begin by examining the international response. While traveling in South America this summer I was presented with the idea that citizens of the world, and not just citizens of the U.S. should have a voice in selecting our president. This is because of the huge and disproportionate impact that the post has on the fate of the entire globe. The international response was much more jubilant than (even) I expected. People were literally dancing in the streets and crying tears of joy across the planet.

I have the feeling that this is like an overnight transition from The Dark Ages to The Renaissance. We, as a people have finally gotten to the point where the inherent unsustainability and unfairness of our course under (the thumb of) Bush became blindingly obvious to the majority of our citizenry. Much to my delight (and a bit to my surprise) the people stood up to the corporate interests and fearmongers to cast off the chains of oppression.

We are being presented with an historic opportunity, but we must work to realize it's potential The link provided is to the transition team's solid website which offers a lot of information while also soliciting input from visitors to the site. Transparency and an opportunity to directly contribute your voice to the governing of the nation, change indeed. To quote my dear friend Daisy May Erlewine "There is work to be done in the dark before dawn, there is work to be done so you've got to shine on.". Get to work!!!