Archive by Author | paxus

Poetic Bombs

I have numerous short stops that i make on most days at Twin Oaks.  One of them is by Coyote’s room.  We will chat about current community gossip and politics.  He will ask me to get him another box of candles or a double cheeseburger with double onions.  While in his room I often write a quick letter to Cassie ex, which he then completes and sends.

Coyote and Cassie in heart

Cassie and Coyote – lovers and pen pals

And sometimes, when i am lucky, he drop on me a piece of writing, a poetic bomb.  Today was one such day.  Coyote has been off the labor system for a while now and leads a quiet life mostly on the second floor of Ta Chai.  He is an avid reader and writes to his favorite authors.  He wrote to the poet and revolutionary Wendell Berry who sent him back the powerful poem HOW TO BE A POET (to remind myself).  Which includes the lovely lines:

There are no unsacred places;

there are only sacred places

And desecrated places.


Coyote’s room is like a tiny gallery.  He has copied pictures of the people important to him, famous or familiar.  And is regularly rearranging these memories to suit his current desires.  And tangled among these images are some of the most profound ideas of our time.

coyotes nicknacks,

Free Advice – Disgruntled Cooks

I have a bad Facebook habit.  i can quit anytime.  Maybe.

facebook snort

Part of it is that i am on some intentional community Facebook groups which have distinctly different politics generally than i do.  One of these groups is the Intentional Communities Discussion Group, a group which has more interested spirituality than i am, there are some rugged individualists, some folks into gun rights.  And they have questions.  This was one of them: 

Can you weigh in on this…?

The situation: Our community is roughly 40 adults. We are a non-profit, focusing on sustainable education. We offer lunch and dinner Mon-Fri with community members getting ‘credits’ for their cook and clean shifts (credits go toward their rent/fees). The schedule, ordering, organization and admin of the kitchen is managed by the kitchen coordinator.

The problems: We are having some difficulties running our kitchen effectively. We’re losing money (as we have to buy all organic ingredients). Cooks are uninspired to cook with variety (often cooking beans, rice and baked vegetables, over and over). People aren’t buying into our meal plans (perceptions of being too expensive, not meeting variety or dietary needs, etc).

cook with fire

The question: How do you run your kitchen? How do you keep costs down? Any tips on where to source cheaper organic ingredients? How do you keep cooks engaged in preparing *good* meals? How do you get community feedback on the communal dining experience?

*THANK YOU* for any input you can give us!!!

My advice:

I have a number of suggestions starting from the mundane and going to the radical.
Mundane first: Grow food/get food donated – If you have 40 members, some of them can garden. Gardening can be a maddening and low margin activity. Gardening also can be meditation, joy and salvation from the insanity of our current culture. Get your members to garden with the intention of having this be an input into your meals and something that community members do in place of some cooking. Additionally patrons of your cafe, who you want to include in the greater culture of your community can be asked either for surplus produce OR to “plant a row” for your community/cafe. Build relationships with your customers.
plant a row
Progressive: Expand the collection of cooks you have, by reaching out to your customers. Do trainings in how you kitchen works with experienced cooks showing new cooks (former customers) how it works and have them prepare meals together. Adding something new will make things more interesting for current cooks. Compensate new cooks with free future meals. Bring in a local TV station to cover a training session and your novel approach.
cooks being filmed
Radical: Change the nature of your community to be income sharing. If the members of the community were to pool their income to meet all their needs you could solve this problem in a number of ways. Technically, this is much less difficult than it sounds. Culturally, it is off the chart hard. We do it in the FEC communities, including importantly at Compersia in DC where members have dramatically different levels of income, debts and needs. BUT when you do make this jump, you take control of the collective economy, make sharing dramatically easier, reducing idle resources, taking control of your internal economy. If you want help understand this let me know.

The Blogs of Twin Oaks


bread formula winnie.jpg

I was surprised to discover that Winnie had a blog.  She is an amazing cook, so it should have not be a surprise that she blogs about cooking for 100 people at Twin Oaks.  Her blog called Sustainable Sustenance for Existence

winnie and bread.jpg

Winnie:  The baker is a blogger

It also begged the question:  What other blogs and social media presences are there in the community and shouldn’t i write a meta-blog about all of them?

Here’s the ones that i know of:

Also new to the scene is Reynaldo’s Dairy Instagram account, taking pictures of our most prosaic cows.

Double Rainbow

It ain’t paradise, but on a good day you can see it from here.

Running in ZK is the name of the community’s unofficial blog.  It is ironically named, because one of the things you most often hear parents or primaries saying to our kids when they are in the dining hall (which is called ZK) “No running in ZK”.  About a dozen Oakers contribute to this blog, which has been running since May of 2013.

slow speed limit sign TO

Two of the Running in ZK contributors, adder and Keegan, have spun off on their own internet presence called Commune Dads which is actually a pod cast more than a blog site, but these things blur these days.  

commune dads

Commune Dads is up to its 6th podcast now (which is on the mixed blessing of grandparents).  And while the lessons are drawn from commune life experience, as with many of the things we find here, important elements are exportable to mainstream life.

Pam was the garden manager for 20 years.  She has written a book called Sustainable Market Farming and there is a blog site to support the book with the same name.

pams book cover

Last and certainly least is my blog, Funologist.  First off, it is only about 20% about Twin Oaks.  The other parts are on polyamory, the evils of nuclear power, Point A adventures to start new urban communities, impeding Trumps latest madness, or curious thought pieces on constructing super memes. This all said, I still get people who friend me on Facebook because they searched for communes and kept finding my stuff.


Blogger and his muse

If Facebook is your preferred point of entrance to the world, we have several presences there, including:

Toms flowers

The House that Numbers Built

This post first appeared on the Commune Life Blog.

We had two naming parties to find a name for the new commune in DC. They both failed. Unlike naming a car or a rope machine, it actually matters that you get a good name out of a party, if you are naming your home.  Naming parties tend to gravitate towards sillier or complex names. For example, the Mighty HaHas of TomorrowLand was the disputed result of the last Compersia party.   But even this silly name did not go to waste completely, the Ivy City house which Compersia Community just moved out of is called TomorrowLand.

But the community itself needed a bigger name, and stronger name. I was quite satisfied with what they choose without the help of a naming party – Compersia.  Derived from the word compersion, this name is a big ask.  It’s about trying to let go of our jealousy and envy and be happy with those we care for being happy, even if our special connection is not exclusive.

compersion comic kimchi cuddles
The Compersia community has a new house. They moved out of Ivy City and now are in Crestwood (one of the proposed names was Bestwood). It is a much larger house, with a real yard and an ample basement play space. This basement space got named Bonkersville at the naming party, which seemed apt since Sappho, Meren, Zadek and Julian were boxing with oversized gloves for much of the evening.

I was asked to facilitate, which i really should take as a compliment, because both of the previous two meetings that i facilitated failed. We got about 50 suggestions from Bagel and The Situation to Emma’s Tea Room and Whitetop’s Castle.
There is an origin story to that last name.  Whitetop was the gambling tzar of DC in the 50s thru 70s. Someone said running the numbers ended not long after this with the advent of the state sponsored lottery. He built this house in Crestwood, a quite suburban enclave beside a park, within the city limits of DC.


We eliminated many great names

Perhaps 50 people participated in the naming party that i facilitated. In the first round they had all 50 choices and 6 yes votes and 3 no votes. Over half the list got eliminated this way. People added names in, but generally these did not make it to the next elimination round. Bougie’s Bugaloo did not make it to the 3rd round, (Bougie Galore is Jenny’s comic commune name), and we also dropped Neverland and the Lucky Heretics. Lucky was for gambling, and heretics because they don’t believe in private income. The last three names on the list were:

  • Sheppards Gamble
  • The House that Numbers Built
  • Asterix

Technically, Asterix won, but only by a single vote after 4 rounds of eliminations. We agreed to call the Bike Shed, “Wheels Up,” and the Basement, “Bonkersville.” There already is a holy site dedicated to “Our Lady of Perpetual Container Shortage” which houses a giant four door refrigerator filled with well organized dumpster treasures.

But the name i think the house is going to go by is “Numbers” which is what folks will call “The House that Numbers Built”. It references Whitetop’s business success. It can quickly be abbreviated by a single #. Googles parent company is Alphabet, the Communes star model is Numbers.

We will see if this one sticks.  It is a lovely place.

Block Gorsuch esp SC, AZ, ME, and NV

In the extremely close confirmation process for ruthless corporatist Neil Gorsuch, who has also recently been shown as plagiarizing , there is something you can do, but you need to do it quite quickly, because the filibusterer will start tomorrow, Thursday April 6th.

Gorsuch trucker

If you are from Maine, South Carolina, Nevada or  Arizona you have a Republican senator who might oppose the “nuclear option“.  You should contact them the using the their online forms (under their links) or call their office.


If you are not from these states you can send money to the campaigns designed to influence legislators in these states.


Slip Trip – When the GPS sends you astray

It has happened to almost everyone who drives these days.  You put an address into your phone with the expectation that it is going to take you some where, and your phone has different ideas.

Oh, it might be your fault when you selected Hemlock Way, instead of Hemlock Expressway.  More frustratingly, it could be that your multi-billion dollar internet miracle combined with sophisticated free sat nav software have sent you someplaceyou have not interest in going to.  I call this a slip trip.


Is the aquarium this way?

There is not a word in common usage for this situation, but i am hoping to coin it here.  A slip trip is when ever you end up someplace you were not expecting by following instructions from a navigation system.

Abigail and i were hoping to go to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium.  We faithfully followed the instructions we were given to get out of Santa Cruz, but quickly found ourselves in the slightly post apocalyptic dreamscape of Fort Ord.

There were dozens of boarded up buildings and even more that wished they were.  I jumped to thinking about how these buildings so close to the ocean could be turned into communities.  Later I would learn the compete lack of water and the over abundance of asbestos made these fantasies inaccessible.

Part of the Slip Trip experience is how you respond to this once you discover that it is happening to you.  I have argued in the blog for nimble emotions around getting lost.  Your GPS simply reroutes and keeps heading on it’s way.  You could do the same.

More common is people getting upset, either at their machine or at themselves or sometimes both.  There is little upside here.  Perhaps it is gratifying to curse at your software, but not so secretly you know, if you are on a Slip Trip, most of the time it is because you messed up somehow.

The slip trip invites you to make your unforecasted destination and adventure.


The Death of Westinghouse

With quite some joy, I just penned the following wikipedia update under Westinghouse Electric Company LLC:

On March 24, 2017, parent company Toshiba announced Westinghouse Electric Company was filing for bankruptcy because of US$6 billion in losses from nuclear reactor construction projects. The nuclear projects responsible for this loss are mostly the Vogtle reactors in Georgia and the Summer reactors in South Carolina. [4]

Westinghouse is fading.jpg


This bankruptcy might halt the construction of every reactor being built in the US at the moment, at least for some period of time. Without a bailout from a likely reluctant Trump administration, these reactors might never be completed though over $10 billion has been spent on them. Before you doubt these projects might be abandoned, remember that half of the reactor projects started in the US were abandoned, many because of cost overruns.  

Despite having followed this story intensely for some weeks now, I am still surprised at this result. I thought the Koreans would want to buy this reactor company for both its contracts and its technologies. Westinghouse has active construction projects and solid leads in many countries including the 4 nearly complete reactors in China. Russia and China were never serious suitors because they are unlikely to be approved by the US federal government for the sale of this sensitive technology.

My first anti-nuclear protest was at the Westinghouse reactors at Diablo Canyon in 1981. I fought Westinghouse at the Temelin reactors in the Czech Republic through the 1990s. Westinghouse developed the first 3rd generation reactors including the AP 1000 which is currently under construction in more locations than any other Gen 3 western design.

temelin action

Temelin Protests 1995

What went wrong? There is a pretty standard formula for building nuclear power plants in the US. The reactor vendor comes in and underbids the contract, while still seeking a huge amount of money. The regulators accept this low bid on behalf of the state. Not long into construction inevitable delays and cost overruns begin. The nuclear construction company turns to the utility and says, “Please pass these extra costs on to your rate payers (or in some states the tax payers.)” Historically, the regulator has obliged. This way the frequently exploding costs of nuclear construction, typically over 200% the initial contracted price in the US, do not bankrupt the construction company. But even this formula was not good enough to restart nuclear construction in the US.

Beyond this the AP 1000 was Westinghouse’s new design.  It was simpler, more safe, better simulated and tested than any other reactor Westinghouse had ever built.  And it was testing the future of reactor construction: Modularity.  Historically, reactors are built on site.  There are too many custom pieces, many of which are huge, to be built in a factory.  But Westinghouse was a forward thinking company.  They knew they need to change the ways reactors were built to keep costs down.  They presumed, as did many in the industry, that standardizing designs and building components in factories like giant legos, which were then fastened together onsite would make it easier and less expensive.  Turn out reactors are not like legos, and this modular strategy was central to Westinhouse failure at Summer and Vogtle.

The Bush/Cheney administration attempted to boot strap the “nuclear Renaissance” with a generous aid package, which included:

  • Government-preferred equity investment facilities
  • $18 billion of subsidized federal loans
  • Tax-exempt financing
  • Federal power purchase agreements at above-market rates
  • Taxpayer-backed insurance
bush in control room

Bush in control?

Despite this generous program, only 4 reactors began construction, two in Georgia at Vogtle and two is South Carolina at Summer. A disappointing yield for an industry that at its high point (2009) had 30 applications in for new reactors.

To land these 4 contracts, Westinghouse (which was acting as the general contractor) had to require that the construction subcontractors bid fixed price contracts. Chicago Bridge and Iron (CBI) was working on the Vogtle reactors and ran into serious difficulties working with Westinghouse and sued them. Counter-suits which further delayed construction followed. Ultimately, Westinghouse would purchase CBI for $229 million to avoid going to court for $1.5 billion.

But once Westinghouse owned most of the construction responsibilities for these reactors there became no way to pass on the cost overruns. The nuclear utilities had protected themselves from this old trick by requiring fixed-cost contracts. It is telling that once the cost overruns could not be passed on, this scam no longer worked, and it promptly bankrupted the nation’s largest nuclear construction firm.

Westinghouse is fading

I’ve been fighting Westinghouse my entire adult life, and I did not expect to outlive it. There will be some hard won celebrations by clean energy advocates across the land this week.