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Akashic Record: Sonnets Division

One of the best parts about the Point A project is the lovely people who are in fairly close orbit to it.    The DC Point A group includes Connor who i barely knew before the project but i have grown a deep affection for.  This last evenings meeting was at his group house in Death City which he shares with his sister and several other charming housemates.

Connor on Base after the Point A DC mtg

Connor on Base after the Point A DC mtg

There was a lovely, chaotically structured pot luck dinner type thing which happened just before the Point A meeting.  Part of which was the creation of homemade donuts.  They were in a word, epic donuts.

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There were originally many more. Sonnets are remembering them fondly

 

The Akashic Record is a quasi mythical place in which all history of all things is being recorded in real time, using a complex combination of high speed digital technology, ancient hand scribing arts and indecipherable magic.  This is not some giant flat bureaucracy.  The Akashic record has a number of different divisions to help users figure out which the most important events are and how it is they are best represented.

Reserved Stacks at the Akashic Records

Reserved Stacks at the Akashic Records

One of the special forces groups of the Akashic Record is the Sonnets Division.  For powerful historical events, when they need something really compelling and rich to capture the importance of an event, they call in the Sonnets Division.

The latest self-scribing technology/magic.

The latest self-scribing technology/magic.

Tonight, for these donuts, the Sonnets Division is working overtime.

 

 

Acorn brings the Party

The sign of a culturally rich community is that there are more things happening than there is time to do them all.  This often happens around evening events and parties at Acorn and Twin Oaks.  And tonight there was a transparency group at Acorn, while there was also a dance party at Twin Oaks.

KeithHaringDanceParty5I

We tried to get out of the transparency group early – but there were all these interesting new people and early became after 9:30 PM.  But a bunch of people still wanted to go, so we hopped into a minivan and a Dharma Bum‘s car.  And walked in and only the DJ was dancing and the dance floor was nearly empty.

Dharma Bums band comes out of the Omega Institute in NY

Dharma Bums band comes out of the Omega Institute in NY

But we brought 13 people and started a bit of dancing.  Half an hour later, Twin Oaks visitors disappointed by the early ending of the original party came back and started dancing, as well as some members who heard rumor of the party restarting.   We had a crowded dance floor and the party was reborn.  Half an hour later the first shuttle went home. By midnight everyone was heading back to Acorn. Report backs were all positive, glad they went, got what they were looking for.

ilovedance

The funological principal here is if you have a dozen of the right/enthusiastic  people that you are adding to an event (even a near dead one), you can control the health of a party.

 

A Cardboard “Hero of the Revolution” Button

i realize that central to my evaluation of someone is what it is that i think motivates them.  Sadly, the affluent parts of the world seems crowded with people who have fallen into some type of personal profit maximization motivation.  A “S/he who dies with the most toys wins” kind of mindset.

 

Another way of looking at things

Another way of looking at things

Trying to avoid this kind of motivation has landed me in hippie communes and scruffy activist circles.  A choice and trajectory i am quite pleased with.

For about 20 years i have a running joke with activists, organizers and communards who have gone out of their way to make the right things happen, often at some personal expense or hassle.  What i tell them is that they will receive one of the highly coveted cardboard “Hero of the Revolution” buttons.  Today i finally made the first one.

 

Made of 100 durable cardboard

Made of 100% durable cardboard

i made it for Michael Mariotte who is having a lifetime achievement award ceremony on Monday in Death City (DC).  MM (as everyone in the movement abbreviates his name) and i met in Kiev in 1996.  I was running the Chernobyl tenth anniversary campaign, which included a huge anti-nuclear conference in the Ukrainian capital.  Having spent the preceding 7 years mostly in eastern Europe i was unaware of the US anti-nuclear movement, where MM was a bit of a superstar.

MM was the executive director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service (he is now president).   He asked me to be on the NIRS board and when i asked him to tell me what the organization had done, he rattled off a number of successful achievements in slowing the spread of nuclear reactors in the US and blocking numerous dangerous waste dump proposals and reprocessing facilities.  I was impressed, i joined the NIRS board, a position i held for a dozen years.

 

 

The ED has rhythm - MM on drums with Tru Fax and the Insaniacs

The ED has rhythm – MM on drums with Tru Fax and the Insaniacs

I thought i was getting into a David and Goliath situation, it was more like David and Godzilla.    In eastern Europe we fought corrupt utilities and deluded development banks, this i was used to.  In the US, where more money was on the line, there are all manner of professional liars and propagandists who were actively attacking us as well as a captured regulator which did an outstanding job of appearing to be fair and caring about civilian safety and concerns, when what they really did was protect nuclear industry profits.

 

MM at recent NYC Climate March

MM at recent NYC Climate March

Nobody fights nukes for the money.  The executive direct salary for NIRS is in the bottom 20% for full time non-profit EDs, paid to someone who is living in one of the countries most expensive cities.  And because of the fickle nature of philanthropic foundations (driven both by their dynamic priorities and swings in the market influencing their endowment) there was often not enough money to pay the staff, and MM was proud that the staff always got paid, often times electing not to pay himself on time.

Intelligent people can disagree about the best way to fight nuclear power.  There are two classical splits: Reactors versus Weapons and Nuclear versus Renewables.  The nuclear weapons complex is directly tied to the nuclear power complex.  They need each other to survive.  And they have repeatedly served each other as a crutch.  MM looked around at the many groups in the US fighting against nuclear weapons and believed reactors deserved focused attention.  Similarly with renewables, NIRS avoid putting campaign energy into clean energy, because many groups were doing it well.  NIRS is the only internationally operating pure play anti-nuclear power organization in the world.

Solar versus Nuclear cost Graph

But don’t confuse MM’s sharp focus on reactors as less than a full understanding of the clean energy and military issues at play.  Currently, reliably the best information about renewable energies disruptive effects comes from the SafeEnergy.org blog, which MM continues to write for prolifically.  Including recently:

MM demonstrates a kind of scrappy intelligence critical to low budget non-profits.  I was arrested at the new Exelon Headquarters in something like 2004.  MM called me after the trial to find out how it went.  “I got 80 hours of community service.”  i told him.  “You should do them at NIRS.” he replied without a pause.  Not stumbling over the idea that i should do community service at the organization which created the event i got arrested for in the first place.

MM was also a visionary with respect to Eastern Europe, which is how we met.  He was one of the few people in the US who saw what was completely apparent in Czechoslovakia, that without orders for new reactors in the 1990s in the west, the newly liberated former communist countries were the place nuclear engineering infrastructure could be maintained.  And just as Westinghouse and GE’s focus moved to eastern Europe.  MM designed (with me) and implemented the east European small grant program, he got money from Ted Turner and others, recognizing that relatively small contributions from the west could have tremendous impact in the east.  We gave out 40 grants in perhaps 1998 of $2000 or less funding everything from bike tours, to direct action camps, micro anti-nuclear university and east/west internships.

 

mm, Tanya and kid 1 and kid 2

mm, Tanya and kid 3 and kid 4

Some of the most important reactors in the world in this fight were the pair of units affectionately called K2R4, which were in Khmelnitsky and Rivne in the Ukraine.  One of the most important interns to come to the micro anti-nuclear university was Tanya Murza also from Rivne.  We stopped the western funding for the reactors at K2R4 and basically knocked the east European development bank (the EBRD) out of the business of paying western companies to complete 25 unfinished Russian reactors.  And Tanya stayed and she an MM had two charming kids.

MM has been a hero and inspiration to a whole bunch of people including me.  He deserves his cardboard hero button.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Sustainable is Twin Oaks?

Twin Oaks is an established income sharing community in central Virginia of 93 adults and 15 children.  Now located on a 450 acre farm, the commune operates 6 businesses, grows most of its own food–organically–builds it’s own buildings, teaches it’s own kids, and repairs it’s own appliances and vehicles.

Welcome to the Community

Welcome to the Community

Here is some of the mainstream and alternative media coverage of us:

Central to the community’s operation is the idea of sharing resources.  Twin Oaks has developed robust systems for sharing cars, bikes, clothes and businesses.  These systems are in sharp contrast to the casual sharing practiced in the mainstream where brittle agreements generally lead to failure.

Turns out to be quite difficult to take good pictures of Commie Clothes

Turns out to be quite difficult to take good pictures of Commie Clothes

One of the many advantages of sharing resources is dramatically reducing our negative ecological effect and carbon footprint.  The numbers below demonstrate we are already near the 80% reduction in carbon emissions that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is recommending by the year 2050.

[Note: It is unclear if the below numbers include our income generating businesses or not.  My guess is they do, and thus we are even more sustainable.  But i will check and indicate here what is true.]

Gasoline: The average Virginia resident uses about 530 gallons per year. Twin Oaks consumed about 15,267 gallons of gas in 2007. With an adult & child population on average of population of 96, that would put our consumption at 159 gallons per person. That is 70% less gasoline consumed.

gas pump noozle

Electricity: The average Virginia resident uses 13,860 kWh of Electricity per year. Twin Oaks consumed 268,065 kWh in 2007. With an adult & child population on average of 96, that would put our consumption at 2,792 kWh per person. That is 80% less electricity consumed.

These numbers pre-date our installation of a 10 kW solar panel array

These numbers pre-date our installation of a 10 kW solar panel array

Natural Gas: The average household in Virginia uses 767 therms of natural gas. Twin Oaks consumed 16,221 therms of natural gas in 2007. With an adult population on average of 87 adults, that would put our consumption at 186 therms per person. That is 76% less natural gas consumed.

Solid Waste: The average American produces 1,460 pounds of trash a year. Twin Oaks produced 18,780.00 pounds of solid waste in 2007. With an adult & child population on average of 96, that would put our production at 196 pounds per person. That is 87% less solid waste produced.

The cultural aspects of community life are as important as the economic ones.  We develop our own holidays.  Almost all our operations are run by volunteers.  We don’t use money internally and there is effectively no crime.

The cast and director of Freegantown

The cast and director of Freegantown

In many ways , the community is an island, culturally and economically separate from it’s immediate surroundings.  This cooperative model, however, is one of the very few solutions that can actually avoid the climate catastrophe the US is hurtling toward at breakneck speeds.

The original data for comparing Twin Oaks with US average consumption of electricity, natural gas, gasoline and solid waste were researched by Alexis Ziegler of Living Energy Farm.

“There is nothing we can do about it”

There is a news story which is breaking over several media recently.  Wired did a feature on it a bit over a week ago called “The Laborers Who Keep Dick Pics and Beheadings Out of Your Facebook Feed”.  This article quotes in-the-know sources who say there are “well over 100K people” working on content moderation world wide, mostly in countries like the Philippines.  The Philippines has cultural ties to the US, has a strong English second language culture and can pay people to do this work between $300 and $500 a month – a tiny fraction of doing the same work in the US.

Pressing this too often can give PTSD like symptoms

Pressing this too often can give PTSD like symptoms

This army cleaning the internet for first worlders is suffering pretty serious casualties.  Understandably, people watching sex all day become desensitized to it.  Most of these workers quit this job between 3 to 5 months after starting.  And the visions haunt many content moderators long after they leave the job.  People using kittens as bait for sharks, people setting animals on fire, child abuse and abusive and violent sex literally flood into various social media platforms, often being posted by proud perpetrators.

But what is disturbing about most of the many recent articles on this topic is that the commentators simply throw up their hands and say there is no other solution than this growing suffering army.  The NPR story especially ended with this hopeless approach. [With the recent Slate article as a notable exception to this trend.]

If verified, they ought to do something more than just pull the image.

If verified, they ought to do something more than just pull the image.

In fact, there are numerous fixes.  Slate recommends law enforcement be called in, but i think there is a better way.  You could simply track the number of flagged posts someone has on their Facebook or other social media site, if they get over 3 deemed inappropriate posts you write them a “Cease and Desist” letter, if they don’t you ban them.

We have a created a system where a misplaced value has been placed “freedom of speech” in the form of you can put up what ever you like.  But then we will review it and pull it down if we don’t like it.  But don’t worry we will not make you in any way responsible for their depraved content you post.  I find this particularly messed up, if you consider that a month back Facebook was demanding members use their birth names.  But it is unwilling to say “you can’t post beheading video’s on this family friendly site”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Other Way to Play

The game of Dominion is fairly popular at the commune.  It is a dynamic card game, and a sister of Magic in that you build decks and the rules are changing all the time.  These kinds of game are pretty complex and they are part of our informal home schooling curriculum.  The fact that our kids want to play, because our adults are playing and because if they play well they can be peers to the adults, are big pluses.

Don't worry if you can't understand it.

Don’t worry if you can’t understand it.

When i first started playing Dominion with Sami he was not yet 5.  Despite being involved in his home school efforts, i dont keep track of where kids are in the educational process by what age they are at.  It is just not something i think about.

One evening Sami and some older kids wanted to play Dominion.  We each choose some of the perhaps 200 different card types we have in the various expansions so we could create a game.  Sami choose a couple of card types he liked as did everyone else.  There was a bit of negotiating to get some better game dynamics on the board.  All friendly negotiations.

Sami at Unicorns Today

Sami at Unicorns School Today

Sami played well, i barely beat him and i was the overall winner.  He got more points than several other kids and adults.

I was talking with Ezra, Sami’s dad, the following day (who Sami had recently beaten) and complimenting his clever kid.  “Yeah, it is pretty impressive.” Confessed Ez.  “Given that he can’t read the cards.”

“What?” i said

“He can’t read yet.  But he really wanted to play.  So he memorized all the cards so he could play.”  Ez explained.

“But there are like 200 different cards, and some are crazy complicated.” i was amazed.

“Like i said, he really wanted to play.”

Ezra, Sami and Zadek and NYC skyline - Circa 2014

Ezra, Sami and Zadek and NYC skyline – Circa 2014

 

 

 

The Anarchists and the Bankers

By GPaul Blundell
If you really want to learn how to make organizations work, try organizing demanding and productive consensus based organizations composed of feisty and opinionated anarchists.  Rewards, punishments, and hierarchies are convenient crutches that you just don’t get to use.  This is our theory on why the FEC communities generate process consultants and facilitation trainers.  It’s like Frank Herbert’s theory of the Sardaukar but with group process.This summer I had the pleasure of visiting Las Indias, an anarchist transnational cyberpunk commune currently based in Bilbao.  Delightful folks, really.  They, like many other modern communards, have gotten into the organizational consultation business and operate a worker coop providing consultation.

Somewhere in Bilboa

Somewhere in Bilboa

Over the years, they’ve been hired by a long list of impressive and, for an anarchist collective, unlikely seeming clients.  Then, in 2006, they were approached by one the biggest banks in Latin America and Spain.  It was suffering from organizational malaise and wanted help for fueling innovation in its ranks.  Las Indias took the job and, after analyzing the situation, decided, like the good transnational anarchists that they are, that the bank was suffering from two major ills: they had too much hierarchy and they were too divided nationally.  The prescription was simple and radical.  They insisted that the bank stuff -more than 120,000 workers- should learn to talk and work out of the hierarchy with a focus in internal open conversations rather than communication segregated by nation or department.

And so they built up the first internal blogsphere used by a big multinational corporation.  And what did they see?  According to Las Indias, the new open transnational space immediately started fostering innovation and quickly six new products where designed by volunteer teams. What is probably even more important: the conversation changed the atmosphere and allowed a collective and wider reflection on including differing perspectives.

eyes surreal

As part of this wave of rediscovery, with workers rediscovering their own environment and the future living inside and around it, the bank financed the first book series of collected of essays by living authors released under Public Domain in Europe. The books, on such at-the-time arcane subjects as P2P systems, the sharing economy, and workers’ transnational cooperativism, were both free for download as ebooks and as a paper edition. The commercial success of the print version was a rare and surprising success in the Spanish editorial scene: even though everybody had the option to have them for free as e-books, thousands of copies of every single title were sold in traditional bookshops.

However, anarchist transnationalist organization was a bit too much for the bank in the long run. The “Innovation Department” who contracted las Indias closed (their members were all promoted) and the bank turned progressively towards a flashier policy of buying dotcom businesses and trying to integrate them into the existing organization. Emphasis on internal conversation was decreased and emphasis on promoting external blogs and marketing was increased. In 2010, after a few years as a successful but then orphaned experiment, they closed the internal blogosphere, the first massive conversational space in a big worldwide organization.

monkey with gun

The bank weathered Spain’s financial crisis in 2008 relatively unscathed. Las Indias suspects that the reflection and innovations fueled by the open conversations had outside of the structure of the hierarchy helped them to avoid dangerous policies then common in other banks. Las Indias walked away from the project, but with a recognized and salable experience that later opened doors for them to more big institutions and businesses of the European Union and Latin America.

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