Archive by Author | paxus

Digital Iron Lips

There was a time before the internet. Many of my younger friends have some difficulty believing this is true or at least understanding how it might work. There is a story i often tell about a particularly dramatic job offer i got and then arriving at work before i got my job offer by crossing the international dateline. To buy that airplane ticket, because there was no internet and because i was in a hurry, I went to the Sydney airport and walked around the ticket offices until i found the next flight out.

From Sydney to Honolulu – 24 hours Time Shift

While it is inconceivable to consider how we would run small business these days without computers, but early in the life of Twin Oaks, the decision to computerize our businesses was internally quite contentious. These days we are regularly looking for ways to use software and hardware to reduce or simplify our human labor.

This year Twin Oaks Validation Day made the jump to automate the six creatures game. If you are unwilling to click through to these links, let me summarize these cultural constructs you are possibly unfamiliar with. One of the best parts of big complex full service communities like Twin Oaks is we get to completely redesign holidays. Valentines day is a horrifically flawed event, so we redesigned it. Specifically, we made it principally about affirmation (which can be given to everyone) and secondarily about romance. This helps make the event inter-generational and accessible to all. We create validation day cards, which are like love letters from many people sharing the same collage container.

While it hardly seems daring in the age of Tinder, the 6 creatures game is a way people who are attracted to each other to find each other without indicating their attractions. The way it used to work is the players would fill out ballots for which of 6 different types of dates you are looking for with the people on the ballots. The creatures/date types are:

1 ) Ants – work dates

2) Puppies – play dates

3) Kittens – cuddle dates

4) Fish – kiss at the party

5) Rabbits – Sex date

6) Doves – Long term relationship

After the ballots are all gathered a trusted member (named iron lips) finds all the matches and lets people know of only their matches. Iron Lips is selected because they are very good at keeping keeping secrets. This game has sparked quite a few new romantic relationships.

Digital Iron Lips ?

This year the person of Iron Lips was replaced by an app. The six creature ballots were never seen by anyone other than the people who wrote them, their shared matches were spit out and given to members who were excited to see what shared possibilities exist.


If you are a good parent, you are open to be learning as much as you might be teaching.  So it has been with Willow from early on.

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Willow, me and Hawina in Ithaca

Willow had been home schooled almost all of his life.  Some of his commune kid friends had gone to conventional school.  They did not speak well of it.  It would come up with some regularity, that their were people (like his grandmother) who really thought he should go to conventional schools.  Willow was not having it.

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A couple of years back my mother thought it would be fun for us to go to Cuba together.  Willow thought it would be good to learn some Spanish before he went.  There being no one at Twin Oaks Community who was willing to teach him, he decided to take a class at the local community college.

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Hawina and Willow in Cuba

I was stunned.  After over a decade of intransigence around the possibility of going to school he just suddenly switched.   I asked him about it.

“Willow why did you decide to go to school?” I asked

“Do you know the difference between community college administrators and high school principals?”  He challenged.

I knew I would not be able to guess, so i just caved.  “No i don’t know, would you tell me?”

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“Sure”  Willow offered.  “The principal is trying to keep everyone in high school.  The community college administrators are trying to keep the customers satisfied.  The difference is the principals are trying to keep the bullies in class.  The administrators are trying to thrown them out.  I don’t want to go to any institution that is trying to keep the bullies in.”

I had never considered such a thing, but clearly this made sense.

Willow is in his third semester of community college, pulling straight A’s, finishing his fancy Clonlara online high school curriculum early and thinking about summer school in video game design.  I am pretty excited and feel proud he made his own decisions to get here.

[As with all posts significantly about him, Willow has signed off on this one.  Thanks to Kelpie for proof reading]


Camping with Rachel

You get to make some choices about how you grow old.  If you work a soulless job, don’t get much exercise because you are either commuting to work or sitting in front of a computer all day, and are not excited about the people you spend your free time with – you will, i am guessing, age hard and fast.

Alternatively, if you love what you do, if you are active – running around doing errands or construction or child care, if you love the people who you are spending time with and they inspire you, then you run a better chance of aging gracefully.

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Another one of my reckless theories is that if you are living ruggedly your body will adapt and be stronger longer.  And that if you create a comfortable easy situation, you will become accustomed to comfortable circumstances and then require them.

I spend most nights at Cambia rather than Twin Oaks.  Cambia is still working on its winterization and my room in the main house is heated at night by space heaters and electric blankets.

Or it isn’t.

For the last few weeks (when i have not been in Florida) i have been sleeping in my room without the aid of heating equipment.  It is a bit brisk, i have heaps of quilts and blankets, and it is fine.

Most weekday evenings i watch youtube recordings of Rachel Maddow’s storytelling on the big screen in my Cambia room.  I think she is very clever and i am quite excited about the current national news.

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When i was explaining my peculiar anti–heater stance to my Cambia clan, Mar responded “It is like you are camping out with Rachel Maddow.”


GivingTuesday – Rustling Roots

First things first, we are running a crowdfunding campaign for Rustling Roots, which is the sustainability education project of my favorite small community and part time home Cambia Community.  Please donate generously if you can.  And so we know it came from this source please donate a dollar amount with a single penny added (so $35.01 and the like).  Here is the link.

This is the lovely promotional video for the project which was made with some of my favorite kids (From Twin Oaks, Cambia and Mimosa communities).

These communities are all different and important models of sustainability.  They have tiny carbon footprints, home schooling programs and a vision of a better world.  In an often insane world, these places and projects are a ray of hope.

Please support us if you are able.



Mega development in Louisa

A couple of months back I learned of the shadowy plan in which the Louisa county supervisors had purchased options for several large tracks of land within the county for a proposed mega development.

mega development map

Over 1000 acres of proposed development – now stopped

Local citizens from across the county (not just the ones from the affected areas) started organizing, specifically bringing people to the supervisors meeting and demanding public input on this proposed plan.  It was clear that the supervisors were expecting this proposal to not get much public attention and that they could simply pass it while no one was paying much attention.  The supervisors, who normally have little public interest in their work, were surprised to find over 100 locals at their meeting upset about their proposal and decision making.

Louisa Sups at round table

Louisa Board of Supervisors – Photo Credit: CBS19 – News

When pressed about why they were advancing this proposal, the answers the supervisors gave were contradictory and thin.  They promised jobs, they promised the $50 million city funded water and sewage system would not raise taxes, they promised this would not be like the several other Louisa industrial park development projects.

These contradictory promises hurt the case for this development and the locals continued to organize and opposition to the development grew.  At the same time the supervisor position on it seemed to harden.  At the first vote on the project, 3 of the 7 supervisors voted in favor of the development and 3 against, and one was not in attendance that evening, but appeared to be in favor of the plan.


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Cambia and some of the other local communities got involved.  Cambia set up the Facebook page and made calls to the supervisors.  One supervisor got 347 different people calling them and only 7 were in favor of the project.

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Protesters at Louisa Supervisor Meeting – Nov 20 – Photo Credit: Me

This time, despite the odds, the good guys won.  The county supervisors hearing for the fourth straight meeting how locals were furious about this proposal reversed themselves and voted unanimously to kill their own project.  Now it is time to get locals together to talk about what type of development we do want, to help the supervisors do the right thing.


7000 Doors

Bringing 10 people, all from out of state to Florida, to work on an ambitious political campaign for 3 weeks is a rich logistical tapestry.  On the day after the election, GPaul (who was the flawless finance minster for the team) reminded me by text that I needed to send thank-you letters to our donors.

Shortly after this my cell phone started buzzing like crazy.  “We are heading for a recount. We need to contact all the people who submitted votes by mail or provisional ballots and confirm these were received,” was the message we got from Organize Florida, the organization for which we had been volunteering.

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Now it was not just Senator Nelson facing a close election needing a recount, but the Gillum/DeSantes governor’s race as well.  And we were back to phone-banking.  Our team, now spread across the country, were phone-banking from airports in California and collectives in Oregon, and folks at the Virginia communes also started calling.  We helped burn through two lists of over 7,000 people in a few hours.

Normally, one would not know who had voted by mail, because one would not have their phone numbers.   Hard Knocks was the group we canvassed with and it was set up by the very politically active labor-union SEIU.  In the Tampa Bay area our canvass knocked on over 1.5 million doors.  We helped thousands of people get their vote by mail ballots.  We brought people to the polls for early voting and educated  them on a number of down-ballot items, including those for the State Senator Janet Cruz and the initiative to restore felon voting rights.  In the end our 10 volunteers, mostly from income sharing intentional communities, hit more than 7000 doors.

At each door that answered, we gathered information about whom they were planning to vote for, including what method they would use.  When the recall became imminent that same database gathered in the months leading up to the midterms could now be employed to reach back to those voters and see if they were actually being counted.

At this writing both the Senate and Governor elections are being recounted.   There is some chance that either of these Democrats will win, and if either does it will be further proof that we made the right choice to go to Florida to work on these elections.  A couple of my anarchist comrades have written long essays about how it is wrong to be involved in these or any elections.  Most of the crew in Florida self identifies as anarchists and is doing this work because the threat of staying on the sidelines is too large.

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Titanium Feather

What of course would be grand would be for us to be the titanium feather which tips the balance.  But even if we don’t I certainly feel good about trying.


November is “Gov. Gillum”

There is something especially reckless about making forecasts on close elections.

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What could go wrong?

Florida has better than average voter suppression techniques.  Current Governor Rick Scott has been an effective advocate of blocking poor people and especially people of color from being able to vote.

Thus betting that a charismatic young black first term mayor of the seventh largest city in the state would become Governor instead of the Trump protégé is especially dicey.  But if Tampa is any indication the enthusiasm with Andrew Gillum is impressive.  Every neighborhood I visit has Gillum signs up.  Suspicious faces break into smiles when I mention I am campaigning  door to door for him.  And then I ask “And Democrats all the way down?”


Neighborhood Gillum Office in Old Town Tampa

And they often concur, democrats all the way down.  And this maybe the most important legacy of the Gillum run.  Bill Nelson is the current effective three term (that is 18 years) Democratic Senator from Florida.  Why have you never heard of him (unless you are one of the wonk/political hack readers of this blog)?  Because he is deathly boring.


League of Extraordinary Gentleman

Due to term limits, current Governor Rick Scott is making a bid for Bill Nelson’s Senate seat and it is quite close (FiveThirtyEight.Com predicts shows Nelson up 51.3% to 48.7).  If Nelson prevails quite some credit should go to Gillum who has helped breaking early voting turn out records, overwhelming both the states racist history and powerful voter suppression techniques.

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Tens of thousands of voters have already been blocked in Florida

When I lived in Czechoslovakia I learned of the Slavic month naming convention that is different from the English language one.    This has been hybridized by a number of people I know into a personalized month naming convention, either on a regular basis, or where an extraordinary event  determines the month name.

We are pulling out all the stops to make true the month name “Governor Gillum,” and I am recklessly predicting a Gillum win.

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Canvassers of Team Tampa: Photo Credit: Calico






Want to Phone Bank?

People keep asking us how to volunteer to phone bank.

Schedule to Phone Bank for Florida  

This will hook you up to the collection for group we are working with on Florida’s critical candidates and referendums.

Nationally, these are the groups we think are doing some of the more accessible organizing for phone banking:

After weeks of being asked to take pictures with inspired citizens getting out to vote, Thumbs had only compiled a photo collage of garden gnomes and copulating dragon flies.  However, when Karen challenged him to put this tiny hat on a stray neighborhood cat, he delivered with this Fred Astaire feline putting on the ritz.

Yesterdays challenge action was Karen asked Thumbs to put this tiny hat on a stray cat and take a picture.  Our man was up to the challenge

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i never said i was beneath using cat pictures 


Come to Tampa and Sing

Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis are running for Governor of Florida and had a debate last night.  Gillum pointed out that his Republican challenger DeSantis was attending racists groups meetings to drum up support for his campaign.

“I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist,” Gillum added. “I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.”

When he said this our team of organizers laughed because it was such a good zinger.

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We are canvassing or phone banking or both everyday.  Mostly door to door canvassing, since that is what is most desired by the local organizers.  While the heat is breaking a bit, it is still hot on the streets of Tampa Florida.

Here is a quick Canvassers Flow Chart:

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We have better buttons, but not better images.

It is an amazing group assembled here in Tampa.  Almost all of us have commune experience, which makes a number of things flow easier: meetings, meals and logistics specifically.  And while there have been some bumpy spots, overwhelmingly everyone gets along with everyone else and is pretty excited to be here.  We have created a temporary autonomous magical zone.

We also compare notes.  We track the number of doors we knock on and the number of people we talk to.  A high success rate for most canvassers is talking to 20% of the doors we knock on.  I  knocked on 83 doors this evening and was pretty stoked to get 17 real conversations out of them.

But Thumbs does better.  Much better.  Every day he has canvassed so far he has been getting over 50% of people whose doors he knocks on to answer.  We wanted to know his secret.  He shared it with us and fortunately Jenny caught it on video.

He sings.  It is brilliant.  It also proves that there are many more people home than we think and just this novel and clever approach will get us connected with them.  We will see how many canvassers can pull this off.  I am certainly willing to try.

But what i love most is that Thumbs developed it in the first place and the thought that in the next election canvass organizers will be asking their volunteers if they are willing to sing.

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Our group is expanding.  Kelpie and Skylar from Twin Oaks arrive on Friday to join Thumbs, Karen, GPaul, Jenny, Calico, Carlos and myself.

Want to come and join this merry band?  Here is the check list:

  • Can you drop everything right now ?
  • Can you walk 5 hours a day for 6 days in a week?
  • Can you live in a tight highly collective house?
  • Can you get to Tampa?
  • Can you sing?

Then drop me an email.

But what likely makes far more sense than you coming all the way to Tampa is for you to phone bank from where you are. Here is a link you can go to on competitive races across the country.

And if you don’t have a favorite group to phone bank with (Indivisible is a good one, MoveOn will help you set up a phone banking party) we can hook you up.

If you can’t come, you can still support this group, we are still actively seeking donations through our  GoFundMe campaign.  And please feel encouraged to follow our adventures on Facebook.


Team Tampa: After our morning meeting, before volunteering for phone banking



Why Florida?

“Are you sure Florida is the best place for us to be campaigning?” GPaul understandably asked me several weeks ago.

“No.”  I replied honestly.  “But I do believe it is the best place stop Trump in 2020.”

Some months ago I learned about Amendment 4.  There are 1.5 million adult Florida citizens who can not vote because they were in prison. Florida is unusual for blocking citizens who have paid their debt to society from voting.  Only 4 states (sadly including Virginia) maintain this racist policy, because a disproportionate number of incarcerated persons are people of color, especially African Americans.  Amendment 4 to the Florida Constitution would restore these voting rights.

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Practicing Canvassing with Carlos at the Tampa Hard Knocks Office

We trained yesterday with the Hard Knocks/SEIU crew in Tampa.  Kevin lived in Venezuela until 18 months ago and had not spoken English in his life.  Now he is a trainer and office manager for SEIU, getting crews ready to hit the streets or phone bank for these elections as needed.  Clearly a quick study, his English was certainly strong enough to train us on the script, throw some curve balls at us, teach us how to use our tablets and the MiniVan program and get us dressed in our bright blue canvass shirts.

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Kevin, Carlos, Jenny and my scruffy self with our bright blue shirts.

While I was not sure two months ago Florida was the best place to campaign, now I am.

While we are fairly confident the Democrats can wrestle control of the US House of Representatives from the Republicans, flipping the Senate is much less likely.  The Florida race for the US Senate this year is one of the most critical ones.  Dems flip house.jpg

One of the most contentious Senate races pits incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson against outgoing Florida Governor Rick Scott. While the most recent polls show Nelson’s lead shrinking, increased spending and GOTV efforts appear to be holding Nelson’s thin lead. While this race does not bring the Democrats closer to taking control, because it is already held, losing this seat would virtually guarantee the Republicans would maintain control. Scott is a kleptocratic Trump Republican, famous for slashing VA benefits while enriching himself.  He reversed his campaign promise and cut 750K people from Medicaid and then privatized it for significant profit for himself and his friends.

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Andrew Gillum populist underdog running for governor.

Gillum was elected Mayor of Tallahassee in 2014, at the age of 35.  This summer, he won an upset victory where he was seriously outspent in the Democratic primary for Governor this year and is narrowly favored to beat Trump Republican DeSantos.  He is a self-described progressive and has a platform similar to that of Bernie Sanders. Sanders has campaigned for Gillum.

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While we were canvassing, Gillum was clearly the most popular personality we spoke with voters about.  Charismatic, progressive, young, and good looking, Gillum has drawn support from many corners of this diverse state.  He holds a narrow lead in the state polls for this race.

With a referendum which may well decide the 2020 presidential election, a hotly contested must-win Senate seat for the Democrats and a Sanders Governor’s candidate running against a terrible Trump clone, Florida is the place to be right now!

We are trying to grow our team and your generous contribution would make that be possible.  If you think these races and rights are important, but can’t make it to Florida, please help these gifted organizers and activists be the hands knocking on doors for you.