Tuesday, October 28, 2008


On the windowsill sits the teacup fabbed for Annie May. It is a soft and bright green on the outside. She managed to save this one cup through her savage week in the hobo squats of Etown. It represented to her the life she ran to. The possibility of play and of joy.

Next to it was a robo-ball that Tarran had emailed me to print for her. It was a ball inside a ball with small balls inside of it. It was 3D printed with a lattice so the internal colors and lattices shone through. In the very center of the littlest balls was a sort of bell. In the soft light of the deep set windowsill of the CBE brick Blue House it left a strange lacy pattern of shadows on the wooden sill and on her CheapID sitting next to it.

On one side of the room Annie May sat on her bed lost in thought peering at a laptop in her lap. She was playing a game which teaches nochalking symbols. The machine made soft beeping noises which blended in a scattered pleasing way with the sounds of Tarran playing scales of Maquuam on his Turkish Jimbush. He paused and listened to his Usted on the video of his own small unit plugged into a screen hanging on the wall. He was peering at his Usted's finger movements and making faces that looked a lot like Annie May. There was a certain way she set her brow when she was certain she could figure something out. We had all started to have the habit of making this face, sort of puckering and widening the eyes.

That is how it is with kids, you grow to be like them as much as they grow to be like you.

They were wrapped in this domestic study sort of moment when I passed by their small room. Walking down the outer hallway there were eight rooms and a dozen small worlds like this unto themselves to see. This time of year our rooms were always full of peoples things, and late at night people sleeping. This year was strange already because we were not in preparation for our usual sorghum festival. The new moon preparations were extremely laid back. Most of the beer was being capped off or put down into kegs. We had made some barley candy, and some wild cherry bark lozenges with some of the syrup rather than proof it all out with the champagne yeast. After the intense work of harvest and the G team coming down from the algae scrubbers and fisheries people were fine with spending some intense time practicing and studying mostly alone or in small groups. They understood we needed to be responsive to the GEAS.

At dinner tonight we would have the first taste of the first proof stuff. Everyone was festive and upbeat considering.

We were keeping the take out diner open. The indoor diner itself was closed indefinitely due to ReDS.Several people had insisted that we needed the inflow of credits from the riders and the reason for them to stop. Annie May's laptop showed this to be true. There was no way that she could have ever afforded it on her own, yet there was no way really for her to get by among us without it. Most of the twelve or so occupants of the blue house were in their rooms or "hootches" studying and practicing today.

Most of the people I knew who couldn't get really enmeshed in the internet could not bear to stay on the land after the end of cheap diesel. Way back in the seventies they had communes and hoedowns and lots of jams. When video tape players and cable came along the diesel generators meant that all sorts of impossible living situations became semi-possible, if not at least mildly entertaining. By the time the diesel movement was in full swing (with Humboldt nation bootstrapping solar steadily alongside all along) there was satellite and flat screen. It was just as connected to what was perceived as "the world" as any other disconnected first world.

Except that without every single little forty running a gennie big enough to power a small Mexican village there is not much to do besides chores and gadgets and internet stuff. Its an environment for the self amused. If you are part of that generation or cultural layer that had a hard time adapting to digital pursuits and time for tea... or a hard time finding the fun in all that self discipline... the woods became a pretty hard place to be. When it was no longer about driving around in your car all day running back and forth to town, it started to be about you. Your own mess, your own spread, your own library. Your true pals. Finding the threads where you left off in your own life before the consumer frenzy and the festival trail. Lots of people did okay following permaculture principles and getting their social cachet from new sources.

The really frugal Humboldt nation people used the sun and leapfrogging built tidy little spreads with as-close-to zero overhead and new tools. Those were the types most likely to get online and start talking. Those were the ones who made it this far. Our own second superpower NorCal was born from their curiosity. Technology has always been dancing with the environment here in a bright green dance. Even secretly. Sometimes it was because of the whimsy and iconoclasm of the flower children. They were wild enough dreamers to make solar panel companies and radio phones and drip irrigation mister kits. Off the grid pioneers. Another part was the good earth and salt of the local ranchers...putting in huge hydro projects to get buyback money from PG&E and buying town houses so they can walk to the store. The local Wylaki also managed to parlay their Indian taco money into some cell phone university credits. I used to teach philosophy by remote extension and they would really get into the round table discussions. More than one kind of PHD in these rough hills. We ended up adapting a system used in DCAR for remote education.

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