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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.

School?

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.

 

 

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.

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Surprising Discoveries – Riot Bayit

Just when you think you know all about your “area of expertise” something new surprises you.

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Riot Bayit at dinner circa 2017

During a recent visit to Crafts House at Tufts someone said, “You should go visit Riot Bayit; they are an income sharing community, right here in Somerville.” I was surprised to hear of an income sharing community we did not know about in an urban region in the North East. What a surprise!

As it turns out, this ambitious group of former Tufts students created a collective house a couple of years back. And after living together that way, they decided they could practice their anti-capitalist politics and support each other better through income sharing. What a reasonable thing to do, which very few folks do in the US.

riot bayit socks

handknit hanukkah socks! 15 socks for 14 feet

We spent a lovely evening chatting with them, listening to their origin story and what they were working on as a group.  Like most start up income sharing communities, they are not currently participating in a cottage industry.  Instead, like Compersia in DC, they all have day jobs and pool their income to cover their expenses and give each member some personal savings each month.

The word Bayit in their name comes from the Hebrew word for “home” and they like the rhyme that Riot Bayit creates. Most of the members identify themselves as Jewish but it is not a requirement.  There is a desire to observe Jewish practices such as shabat, and the holidays and celebrations which are not observed in the mainstream are much more actively a part of the life and discussions here.  Some members more actively study Jewish history and philosophy and bring their discoveries back the the larger group.  As with the name of the house, some Hebrew words are part of the regular vocabulary.

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Portraits of members on the wall

They are activists, organizers, fundraisers, and public advocates.  Their politics are on both sides of the front door: at home and in their workplaces.  Posters on the stair well wall invite refugees, while conversations recognize their relative privilege.  It is also clear that they are already doing things about this unfairness and have intention and momentum to do more.

One of the core values of the collective is addressing income inequality with redistribution.  To this end, they give 1/10th of the collective income to organizations who are doing political and cultural work they support. This tithing money is not going to religious organizations; it goes to political non-profit organizations which align with their greater values.

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Building the new commons in Somerville

Riot Bayit enjoyed the Point A propaganda and stories and when they encouraged us to return to do workshops with them in the future.  My surprise quickly shifted to joy.

Photo Credits: Riot_Bayit@instagram

Love Letters to Strangers

One of the most pressing questions facing event organizers these days is “How important is Facebook in bringing people to events?”

social media is changing everything

But how and how much?

I asked an experienced promoter “If you have 100 people saying they are ‘interested’ in my event (as opposed to ‘going’) how many can I expect will actually come?” They replied “Zero”.  Which begs the question “Why bother working with Facebook at all?”

The answer for the team working on the Twin Oaks Communities Conference is that we can reach out to people who say they are considering the event and encourage them to come.  Or in other words, we are writing a bunch of encouraging letters to strangers.

love letters bundle

For this event which is happening over the Labor Day weekend, it is still possible for many people to make plans to attend.   Rather than crossing our fingers and hoping those who are interested might come, we are using all the information which we have from Facebook to try to engage and encourage unsure possible attendees to come.

Even if we are not friends, the public information about you on your Facebook profile will help me assure you that this might be a good event for you to attend.  If there is a picture of you with your children on your wall, we can point out we have a great childcare program at this years event

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Child Care at the Communities Conference

If your Facebook timeline shows you are interested in inclusion and racial justice, then we can alert you to the thread (sequential related workshops) on this topic, including the workshop by returning presenter Crystal Farmer

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Crystal explores implicit bias & how to build diverse communities

If it is clear you are interested in renewable energy or electricity independence, then we are happy to announce that Alexis Ziegler of Living Energy Farm is presenting on “How to make your community 100% energy self sufficient

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Rainbows over Living Energy Farm

Turns out even strangers like love letters.  People are writing back. We are coordinating transportation for organic farmers with families in Michigan.  Racial Justice activists from Baltimore are asking us questions about work exchange to make it be possible to attend.  Folks from various egalitarian communities are saying they are interested in our panel discussion on the advantages of income sharing and the Federation.

What about you?  Is your community looking for new members?  Are you looking to change your life and join an intentional community? If so, then this might be the right event for you to be at over the labor day weekend.

If so come visit www.communitiesconference.org or show up at our Facebook event.

Communities building Co-ops

I want you to come to this years Twin Oaks Communities Conference.  Not just because I am one of the organizers and we would love for attendance to be high, but because there is some excellent content at this years event and I would love more people to get exposure to it.

One of the threads I am most excited about is communities creating worker co-ops.  The nature of community changes dramatically when you have your own income engines.  You become more flexible.  When members of your community have to work outside jobs they are pulled away from community life everyday, their work issues are separated from the collective life.  When you build a collective business, you are working with the people you live with, your bonds deepen, your flexibility increases, your motivation for work improves.

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But starting businesses are fraught with mishaps and hazards, which is why we have brought in experts to help guide those who wish to attempt this noble quest and increase your chances of success.  Below is the description of one piece of this thread.

Communities building Cooperatives – C2C

3 interlocking workshops for the Twin Oaks Communities Conference

And the Cambia Labor Day program

 

Intentional Communities and Worker Owned Cooperatives are sister initiatives, which can certainly cooperate more.  The 2018 Twin Oaks Communities Conference (Aug 31 thru Sept 2) will have a theme of how intentional communities can initiate and expand worker coops and how collectively controlled businesses can spark and support residential communities.  The Cambia Labor Day program (Sept 3) will focus on reviewing co-op business plans with an eye towards revising or polishing them.

These different collective ventures both require building trust between members and effective group decision making and visioning.  Intentional Communities which embrace starting cooperative work environments strengthen their financial foundation and expand the options for their members.

solidarity
This three day program will develop new ideas into proposals and then format them as draft business plans.  Some of the different workshops in this theme are described below:

Sept 1:  Visioning a co-op inside your community.  You already live together, what would it take to work together?  Is it possible for your collective to agree on a shared income generating venture and what are the deal makers and breakers for your members?  What type of time frame makes sense for this venture? Who are the in house champions that are going to prioritize this venture, including shepherding it thru community process and hopefully consensus.

Sept 2: Drafting a Business Plan.  Worker co-ops are businesses.  For them to succeed they need to be economically viable and serving a real need.  Real startups require business plans and new co-ops have some special extra considerations when crafting their business plans.  This workshop uses the Business Model Canvas technique to represent the key elements in developing a new venture and directing further research.  It will also use PEST Analysis: Political, Economic, Socio/cultural and Technological  considerations in refining the draft business plan.

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Coffee will be provided, pie charts will not

Sept 3 (Cambia Labor Day program) Worker Co-op Business Plan Review & Clinic.

Business plans will either be submitted in advance or developed over the previous two days at the Twin Oaks event.  This workshop will review briefly each of the business plans which are being worked on both by the facilitator/experts leading the workshop and by the other start up designers.  Based on this input a collection of recommendations will be made for how to improve the business plan, what kinds of support possibilities (financial and technical) exist and how to connect with them and what the best next steps might be.

 

Don’t Buy Land First

I am one of the moderators on an interesting Facebook group called the “Intentional Community Discussion Group“.  A very typical posting is “I just bought X beautiful acres, and I want to start an intentional community.  What should I do next?”

My answer is “Find a time machine and unbuy the land.”

Time-Machine

Generic Time Machine – Available on EBay

This feels deeply counter intuitive to many.  If you want to start a community and you have the capacity to buy land for your potential group, won’t it help the process along if you start by acquiring the land and then offer it to the group?

Sometimes it does, mostly it does not.    The deal with starting a community, lots of people think they want to do it, but they don’t have all the friends and allies they want to do it with, so the accessible starting place looks like buying land.  But as soon as you buy the land it stops being “We are starting community” and it becomes for everyone else “Should we join this existing project?”

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Starting community is a fragile time.  Some huge fraction (perhaps over 90%) of new communities fail.  Most forming communities never get passed the “We are talking about it” stage.  People want different things from community.  And many people have huge hopes that community will solve a myriad of problems for them.  “I will find my tribe.”  “I won’t have to cook every meal myself.” “I will be able to live off the grid.”  “I’ll have less stress.” “I’ll live with people who care for me.” “I will reduce my carbon footprint.”  And dozens more.  Starting community is an anti-gravity project.

The process of harmonizing the different needs and desires of prospective communards is the most important conversation you will have in your forming community.  If one of the desires of a member you love is ” I want to reduce my time commuting”, then you have almost certainly chosen the wrong place if you have already purchased land.  If their need/desire is “I want swim everyday” then your lack of stream or pond in your land purchase might be a deal breaker.  If someone needs for their cat to roam free outside and you have chosen a beautiful piece of land near a coyote refuge, then you have already scuttled their participation.

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beware the deal breakers

The key point here is when you are starting up a community the most important thing is to build the group.  And one of the most important decision for the group is which piece of land/buildings should you start with.  If you make this decision for the group, the forming community loses one of it’s most important identity forming choices.

 

Why you need to watch Fox News

Paul Manafort is in jail.  He was out on bail and had already violated the terms of his home confinement once.  So when he was caught witness tampering (a crime especially agitating to judges) he was remanded to prison.

Manafort and trator poster

Legal titan Alan Dershowitz argues Manafort should not be imprisoned.  “The government says he did it, he says no he didn’t do it.  He didn’t know they were witnesses, and his conversation’s entirely innocent. Why does the government get to win without a hearing or trial?” Dershowitz recently told Fox and Friends.

Dershowitz knows thousands of mostly poor US americans are in prison having never been tried or convicted, in situations like Manafort’s.  And while he decries the status quo, he gets media attention when it is the president’s rich white campaign manager being mistreated.   He is a civil libertarian and “Trump whisperer” because of his frequent and legally compelling criticisms of the Mueller Investigation.

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But Fox News is not just important because this lawyer who helped get O. J. Simpson off is critical of the special counsel’s investigation.  Fox is the mouthpiece for Trump’s base and they rely on this story telling network for the talking points needed to justify his criminal and unethical behavior.  After Fox News insufferable Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson perhaps the most important apologist for Trump.  Carlson has been called Fox News’s “Master of Misdirection” by the Washington Post.

Please only listen to the first 3 minutes of this video

I don’t want to be responsible for your mental health if you take a larger dose.

Faced with the prospect of Manafort flipping on the president who Fox News loves, Carlson is pulling out all the stops in the above audio broadcast.   The first moments of this Carlson monologue quotes one of the presidents better written tweets.

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Then Tucker builds an amazing story in which Manafort crime become the crime of all politicians – that he did not register as an agent of foreign governments. Tucker falsely claims that this is Manafort’s core crime.  Manafort has been indicted for many other more important offenses including: conspiracy against the US, money laundering, tax evasion, failing to report foreign bank accounts, lying to the FBI as well as witness tampering.

[For a much more amusing treatment of exactly this problem you should watch this funny episode of John Olivers Last Week Tonight’s building the case against Fox News https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3XTzVzaHQEd30rQbuvCtTQ]

You need to, very occasionally, in measured doses, watch Fox News, because so many people are being poisoned by it and believing it.  With millions of dedicated viewers, you may well find yourself in an argument with one of the Fox News fans. If these deceptive stories are left unchecked, then we are well down the highway to authoritarianism and war.

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