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Cyptrographic Cat

i like writing about the contrast between communities, because it is illustrative of the choices we make and the different cultures we craft.  It has taken me over a year to write about this particular topic, because it was a secret for most of that time.

"You don't talk about Fight Club"

“What cat?”

For a number of good reasons and some poor ones many communities place restrictions on the numbers of some types of pets which can be in residence.  Twin Oaks for example, limits the number of dogs to 4 and the number of cats to 10.  Dogs pack and thus howl at night, the number 4 was believed to be below the packing threshold (which it seems to be).  Cats have a high impact on local wildlife, birds, mice, moles etc.   In the egalitarian communities approved pets are budgeted for.   And while every pet must have a sponsor who is responsible for their welfare, the vet, food and other costs are paid for collectively.

One down side is that many people have allergies and try as we might, pets get into public spaces and make the lives of people who can’t share spaces for them difficult.  i am lucky and don’t have pet allergies, but i am highly aware of how we collectively basically discriminate against people with pet allergies in favor of the pets of some members.

One day when i was in the smoke shack at Acorn a grey cat strolled in who clearly felt like this space was theirs.  The cat was aptly named Fight Club, because it was a stray which had been adopted by some of the members and it was above the current cat limit.  So we just did not talk about it.

Fight-Club-movies-quotes-rules

The idea that a public cat could be a secret intrigued me.  i watched with interest as the Fight Club story unfolded.  The advocates for the cat were quick to grab the first cat spot which opened up for Fight Club when another cat departed when it’s owner moved on from community.  And despite the fact that the cat was then (and now) legitimate we kept the name. Good names are precious and this one had a lovely story to it as well.

Late last year, Acorn spawned Sapling.  At first it was a residence of Acorn which was not on the main campus.  But we knew it was quite likely to become it’s own community, since that is what most of the Spalingers wanted.  We agreed on a number of rules in the beginning to make it easier to sell the property in the event that the experiment did not work out.  One of these rules was “no pets”.  Sapling is now it’s own independent community (and there is a guest post in the offing describing it).  But a few months back when i came to visit Sapling a dog ran out and started barking at me.  When i asked what the dogs name was i was told simply “That is Fight Club”.

 

 

Who will build the roads?

Errico Malatesta was something of an anarchist super star, if such a thing is not self contradictory.  Toward the end of his life, he was so popular he could draw crowds in the tens of thousands to hear him speak.

His political career started early, as a boy he was arrested for writing an “insolent and threatening” letter to Italian King Victor Emmanuel II.  Many nations would look unfavorably at Malatesta, he was forced to leave Italy, he was blocked from entering Syria and Turkey, he was expelled from Switzerland.  He also opposed syndicalism because he believed it created an elite class of trades people.  He would spend ten years of his life in prison.

Malatesta was first arrested at 14

Malatesta was first arrested at 14

But it is his ideas and not his personal history which i find especially compelling.  One of the many compelling points in his short book “Anarchy” was:

Anarchy literally means “without government”. It has taken on the common secondary meaning of “disorder and confusion” only because people have been conditioned to believe that the abolition of government is impossible. In the days when people believed that the abolition of monarchy was impossible, the word “republic” carried a similar meaning to “anarchy” today.

I find it fascinating  that the people who control language choose a second meaning for the name of the style of government/self rule that they were afraid of with chaos and disorder, both for Republic a hundred years ago and for Anarchy today.

anarchy is not chaos

 

30 years ago i went to the Arcosanti community in the dessert of Arizona.  When i was younger i was fascinated by the dense building ideas of Paolo Solari who was the original designer of this extraordinary community.  When i was on the tour, someone kept explaining to our guide how this type of venture was impossible and would not work, they described all the businesses that they personally needed and how they could not see them there.  A blindness i would consider a failure of imagination.  

 

where we are going we dont need roads

 

 

Most people can not imagine work environments without bosses and hierarchy.  This failure of imagination leads them to think that these things are not possible.  And everyday i am at Acorn i am amazed, pleased and impressed by the business which we run that has no managers or bosses, dynamically determines much of the work which needs to be done and still comfortably succeeds in supporting the community.

There are dozens of answers to the question “Who will build the roads?” The fact that some people can’t visualize how this would be done, does not mean it can not be done, it often just means that people have poor imaginations or are wedded to the status quo.

 

Step outside the box

Step outside the box

 

 

Would you wear it?

i breezed into commie clothes and got a funny t-shirt which i barely read.  After walking around in it for half an hour and a couple of people saying, “are you wearing that to the wedding?” i decided i should go back to commie and upgrade my attire.  On my return trip i found a nice embroidered light weight shirt, which was praised by several people after i emerged with it on.

The next day i walked into the Acorn smoke shack and guest Johnny said, “Oh i like that shirt,” to which i replied, “Would you wear it?” to which he unhesitatingly shot back, “yes!”.  I immediately pulled the shirt over my head and handed it to him.  He stripped his shirt off before a slightly shocked new visitor and put the embroidered one right on. The total length of our exchange was less than 2 minutes.  i walked off wearing his simple green t-shirt.

Johnny and his new shirt

Johnny and his new shirt

The pitch i made to the PBS reporter who was just here is we basically have two choices: we can learn to share things, be generous and cooperate, OR we can continue to be selfish, possessive, and untrusting.  In the latter case, the world dies.  Let’s practice giving stuff away in a big way.

 

The easiest virtue

When i was in my early teens i thought (for some reason which escapes me now) that i should be more virtuous.   i did a bit of research and found a long list of virtues in some book (this is before Wikipedia would direct me here).  Having studied the list and being an efficient sort of teen (not wanting to have to work the new virtue problem too hard), i settled on patience.  My thinking was this, all you have to do is wait.

Turns out in my particular style of parenting, patience is the key to success.  Twin Oaks requires an increasing amount of work from it’s kids as they get older.  Willow needs to work a handful of hours now and it will bump up to 8 hours a week when he turns 13.  Mostly he is responsible for his homework and education.

My Tupelo Surf Helper and Mop

My Tupelo Serf Helper and Mop

For a while time i was worried that Willow would play video games and watch Star Trek and resist both school work and work around the community.  Over the last few months he has been doing more of both.  Hawina has been instrumental in helping him find work that he actually wants to do.  Like helping Sky with preparing lunch or doing a Tupelo Serf (cleaning shift) or boxing tofu or stocking his residence’s kitchen.

And good things come to those who wait.  And the big benefit to the more patient approach is that he feels he is making the choices (which he is), rather than being commanded by his parents to do something.  And some times the easiest thing to do is the right thing to do.

My favorite moment from this Tupelo Serf shift with Willow was after i asked him to help me spell something he said “i love it when adults ask me how to spell things.”

[Willow has Read and Approved the Post]

 

 

Two Speaking gigs – University of Baltimore and MIT

i quite like public speaking, especially when it is on topics i am passionate about.  I have two gigs coming up and i wanted to brag about them here.

Cuddle2-page-001

My charming and talented lover Bryonna at UB is organizing this first event.  My part of the presentation is just before the “cuddle in” part and while i will certainly talk about the basics of consent and why it is important, my real agenda is to use transparency tools and milling activities to build trust among these somewhat daring participants.

An earlier event is the workshop GPaul and i are doing at MIT on how intentional community and sharing technologies are the solution to Climate Disruption.

Workshop Poster-page-001

 

OK Cupid Blues and Greens

[It turn out, as a novice user, i significantly over-simplified both the status and the politics of the polyamory identity/recognition struggle within OK Cupid in this post.  Fortunately, my new friend Tara has added a long comment to this this post which gives the background and history.  In this case you might want to read the comments to this post before the post itself.]

Some months back i joined a secret polyamory group on Facebook (which means it can only be seen by its members).  One of the interesting aspects of this group was that there was an internal list of links to people’s OK Cupid (OCK) profiles and a few other links.  Many dating sites and sex positive social network sites use pseudonyms to hide people’s identity, so this key inside the secret poly group was quite valuable in seeing who was in the group and how they present themselves.   Almost everyone had an OKC profile, so i thought i should get one as well. Once i put it up, Cassandra heavily edited it for me.

What should your partner be doing of a Friday Night?

What should your partner be doing of a Friday Night?

One of the problems with OKC is that it was not designed to match poly people very well.  Under relationship status you could be single or married or dating, but there was no “Open Relationship” option, which is quite important to dating sites.  OKC fixed that this week.  We will see if this leads to a different experience for me with the system.

okcupid triad

i must confess an odd relationship with the OKC system.  i want to be validated by having people who it seems i am good matches with, but i am not super interested in finding romantic partners this way, at least i don’t think i am.  It has been slightly frustrating to find people who are 95% matches who have no interest in polyamory, since i have answered a number of questions about this, it seems like there is something wrong with the OKC weighting algorithm (or perhaps everyone else is just dodging all the questions on poly).

OKCupid key words

OK Cupid does have a number of revealing and curious statistics about it’s own users.  For example if your desire is to get a lot of messages from OKC as a straight female user, then you are much better off with some people thinking you attractive and others thinking you are ugly, then you are with the same number of people finding you beautiful but many men finding you cute.

OKC paradox questions

OKC paradoxical answers

The service is free.  You can add your own questions and answer the ones you like.  It is in pretty wide use (which is important for network effects).  It does not discriminate against non-heterosexual users (as a surprising number of dating sites do).  And while it is not the only game in town, it is a good game.  If you want to be in this world at all.

Other Polyamory Blog Posts:

And the latest news from Scientific American:  Polyamory may be Good for You

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acorn Land Day Photos

Even the goats dress up for the party

Even the goats dress up for the party.

Samantha dresses up just for parties

Samantha dresses up just for parties.

We built a lovely stage

We built a lovely stage.

And build a huge fire in front of it

And built a huge fire in front of it.

Some costumes were exotic

Some costumes were exotic.

Dragon and Luna

Dragon and Luna

Grace guest fees a goat

Grace Guest feeds a goat.

 

Calf checking out party lights

Calf checking out party lights.

Ca[f spooked by lights flees

Calf spooked by lights flees.

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]

We are a hot internet meme

My story, which i completely made up, is that during the time Occupy was raging across the land, millions of protest pictures went up on line.  Including this one:

sabrina occupy

 

Now a few years later, people are going back and looking through those images and finding ones which they think are compelling and reposting them.

And while it did not garner much attention when it was first posted, when Evolvefest reposted this image on March 28th, the interwebs got pretty excited about it.  It has been shared over 8,000 times in the last 5 days.  Twin Oaks is also getting people asking to join visitor periods because of it.

Though i am nominally in the transformational festival business, i had not heard of Evolvefest.  Which is an annual event in NJ (not northern Nova Scotia as originally reported).  Their Facebook page throws up literally dozens of images every day, but it is rare for their 90K FB friends to get as excited about an image as they did about this one.

For me what is important here is that effects of the Occupy movement are still lingering, largely invisible to the mainstream media which has moved on to the next hot topic.

 

 

NYC is like Crack

“Your organizing style exhausts me,” GPaul complained, and my occasionally defensive nature did not put up a struggle.  Even for me this event felt a bit like a bridge too far.

NYC proved intoxicating with its density and rapid possibilities.  In February, we had announced a discussion of the income sharing communities in Virginia and the new Point A project.   We announced it less than a week before the event, which was on a Tuesday night, and we did not even have a venue until 3 days before the event.  Still 65 people came (Facebook predicted 60).  Some powerful alliances were made.  At first GPaul and i thought these new connections had been more fortunate for our friends at Catalyst Community and other community/ecovillage projects which had participated in the event than they had been for us.  But we were wrong.

Catalyst Community has lovely images of futuristic communities

Catalyst Community has lovely images of futuristic communities

Elena and Beatrice and Teagan and Arrow and Andrew and Jaimi from the venue we presented at, the BUZ, all were huge helps especially in networking.  And in the face of this support i convinced GPaul that we should immediately turn around and do it again in March, only bigger.

This time we would announce it two weeks in advance, we would run a Friday night program of Transparency Tools by Marta and Roberto, and then 6 hours of content midday on Saturday.  Internally, we referred to this as a “mini communities conference”.  At the time we announced we had 6 workshops and a panel discussion on the schedule. We also only had one confirmed presenter.  And since all the content was either urban or NYC specific, unlike the February event, neither GPaul nor i could facilitate the material which we had proposed.

Then NYC decided we were interesting.  Three days after we announced the event nearly 100 RSVPs plus 40 maybes on Facebook were telling us they were coming.  What if they all come?  What if more people than this come, because there is more promotion coming and it is still 10 days away?  i started seeking more content, for an event that did not have a stable group of confirmed presenters for the initial proposal.  We added a Bridges to Burners workshop and one on the Lessons from Occupy as it relates to intentional community.

occupy-wall-st-alan-test1

“Do you have a lot of money?”  started one person who i was directed to as a presenter on gentrification.  When i confessed that we did not, they told me that there was nothing which could be done on gentrification without it.  i realized that this person was failing as an activist.  When you finish your conversation with an activist you feel like there is something that you can do to make the situation better.  Dis-empowering messages are the purview of policy analysts and wonks.  At the least, activists have stuff they want to try.  Gentrification was especially vexing because i did not have any useful experience with it and we had no direct contacts to people working the issue.  I was already feeling the crash of the NYC opiate high.

Fortunately, former Twin Oaks and Acorn visitor Eman agreed to present on gentrification and multiculturalism.  She simply laughed at the notion that without money we were helpless to change things. Eman is an amazing story in herself.  A long time NYC community organizer and fundraiser, she has lost both her legs in the past year to a blood clotting disorder.  She agreed to give the “solutions half” of the popular workshop.  To get her to these workshops required me carrying her up the several flights of stairs of this non ADA compliant venue.

Let's talk about multiculturalism and stopping gentrification

Let’s talk about multiculturalism and stopping gentrification

A week before the event Facebook was saying that we had 125 participants confirmed and almost 100 maybes.  I went and did a walk through of the space and then relaxed a bit.  There were additional rooms for workshops and BUZ organizer Jaimi would give up his personal room as a child care space or spare workshop space.  Even if we had 175 people, we were going to have enough space for 5 concurrent good sized workshops.

It is easy for me to write up workshop descriptions and put them up on a website.  It is another thing to fill the 15 odd slots on for panel discussions and workshop facilitators with knowledgeable people who present reasonably well.  And then there is this little thing that i am terribly disorganized.

At the initial panel discussion, Andrew, who was working sound, asked “How many chairs and mics should we set up?” and i realized i did not know the answer to the question. One speaker had confirmed, two were maybes and several others had not responded to my inquiries.  And then some people who i invited surprised me and showed up to present.  In the end, five very different and quite engaging people presented.

The audience (and organizers) loved their stories.  These included avoiding unrelated persons occupancy restrictions by appearing to be a family.  The way the authorities determine this is if you have all your toothbrushes in the bathroom and no interior locks between bedrooms.

The CIA under Reagan brought crack and cocaine into the US

The CIA under Reagan brought crack and cocaine into the US*

I have never done crack.  Thirty years ago when i tried cocaine and it did not have much of an effect.  My girlfriend at the time posited:

You are coke are redundant.  You already have a huge ego.  You already think you are unstoppable.  You are already arrogant and pushy and in a huge rush.

This observation perhaps saved me from an expensive habit.    But the analogy with NYC lingers.  NYC comes on powerfully.  It gives you the illusion you can do anything.  It changes your internal clock and everything starts to go faster.  And then it dumps you out the other side, often not gently.

Only 80 people came to the final event (not counting the 25 who came to Transparency Tools the night before, which was the perfect size).   We lost a couple hundred dollars. But despite this attendance let down, we were all pretty satisfied with the content.  And we have new respect for this complex and occasionally deceptive city.

——-

* Wikipedia article on the Reagan Administrations confession to the CIA trafficking crack and cocaine revealed after the Iran Contra Scandal.

What we learned from the Kitchen Upgrade Appeal

We are in the last few days of the crowd source effort for the conference site kitchen up grade.  We will likely miss our goal.  Fortunately, the option we selected on Indiegogo (our crowd source host) insures we still get the pledges (and supply all the premiums), but our processing fees are higher if we come in short.  Specifically, if we make the $8K goal on the kitchen campaign, we will pay the crowd source host 4%, if we are anything shy of the goal, we pay them 9% to process the donations.  This makes great sense from the perspective of the crowd source platform, because you want people submitting  campaigns to think hard about what they need and carefully design their goals.  This was not one of our mistakes, $8K was a reasonable and appropriate goal for us.

Click on the banner ad to make a last-minute donation.

community-outreach-2

Nor was outreach our problem.  We contacted former participants of the communities conference and women’s gatherings and asked them to support this necessary upgrade. We blogged about the campaign, posted it everywhere on Facebook and Google Plus that made sense.  Used the FIC newsletters and other email lists to let people know what was happening.  Even shot a couple of compelling videos about the importance of the event.

We even got the community to get behind the campaign by getting a pledge from Twin Oaks that if we make the goal, the community will contribute another $7K to upgrading the site, effectively doubling the crowd source contributions.

So if we set the goal right, did strong outreach to friends and allies, got matching funds, what went wrong?  Why are we not making the goal?

Part of the problem is the hybrid nature of our event.  We are not a classical non-profit, we occupy an unusual economic terrain,  “Why should people give money to support your business?” GPaul asked pointedly.   Technically, the communities conference and women’s gathering are cottage industries under the community’s umbrella of businesses.  It is a bit rare for people to give money to for profit enterprises.

Willow's first Conference.  With organizers Valerie, Sky Blue and myself - circa 2003 Photo by Anissa

Willow’s first Conference. With organizers Valerie, Sky Blue and myself – circa 2003 Photo by Anissa

But for better or worse, we don’t really operate these events as profit maximizing operations.  We try to make them accessible to everyone who wants to come (charging sliding scale for entry).  We get lots of volunteer labor to help make them happen.  We charge only a tiny amount over our costs for people who can’t camp out and sleep at Sophia House near by.  We offer some work exchange positions for people who want to come but can’t afford the low registration fee.  We offset some travel expenses for our presenters.  We are not looking to make bank on this event, something better than breaking even is great.  The purpose of the event is to build the movement, foster new communities and to facilitate networking.  These priorities trumps making money.

Another thing we could have done better was selecting more premiums earlier.  We are relatively new to crowd sourcing (having really only worked on the Acorn Arson Appeal campaign before) and probably underestimated the importance of this aspect of the appeal.  In case you are interested or influenced, there are now more premiums on the campaign, including a fine Twin Oaks hammock, copies of “Is it Utopia Yet?” and Southern Exposure seeds.

One of the new premiums for the campaign

One of the new premiums for the campaign

And i would happily be proven wrong.  Bust out your credit card and help put us over the top, all contributions are still welcome (remember to end you donation in a $1 increment so we can tell you were inspired by this post – so $51 or $101 etc).  And even more importantly, come to the communities conference (instead of Burning Man, which you don’t have tickets for anyway and it is sold out).

If you have seen one art car, you have seen them all

If you have seen one art car, you have seen them all

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