Arte de Timo
December 29th, 2011 Comments Off
December 26th, 2011 Comments Off
This holiday my family spent a lot of time on the road traveling. It gave me a lot of time to think, which was nice, since thinking is one of my favorite things to do. Sitting in a car for all those hours inevitably got me contemplating cars, travel, and our problems with them.
I wondered why we, as a society, protect the status-quot when it comes to travel. We deny every chance that comes up to go beyond the 150 year old gasoline powered automobile, whether its trains, or electric cars, or higher standards. Cars really are a pain in the butt, even for as much mobility they offer us. They often require multi-year loans to pay off, only last about 10 years, cost thousands of dollars a year to maintain, and even more to fuel up. The internal combustion engine is inefficient, loud, dangerous, large, heavy, and complicated. Why do we bother keeping it around?
Our culture demands smaller, better, faster and cheaper with everything else, but we seem to be more than happy with our uncomfortable metal bricks on wheels. So maybe we aren’t all that happy, but what options do we have? For our trip we had the options to drive our Prius for 10 hours and $70, or use up 5 hours, our dignity (from the horrible “search” and general treatment we would get in the airport), and $500 flying. There is no train to our destination, so we couldn’t take one even if we wanted to. There has been talk and hopes of a single bullet train in our general area, but that will never get built. There is also the bus route, but that lies somewhere in between driving and flying, and usually only offers the worst of both; high cost, uncomfortable travel, and extremely long travel times.
After depressing myself with this conclusion about our one practical option to be uncomfortable, inefficient and environmentally dirty, I remembered some sound bite I had heard about this company that was trying to change the map of personal travel. They had the idea that electric cars would work for a population if you got past the cost and limitations of the batteries. Their model is to sell the car along with a lease for the batteries. The lease offers car owners the chance to swap them out as needed at battery swapping stations on long trips, or just for convenience reasons. I like the idea, but their implementation and leasing structure would only work in fresh markets, expensive ones, or very small countries.
The other thing I remembered was something out of Popular Mechanics. There had been a dream a while back about making cars into platforms for various propulsion and cab options; modular cars if you will. That seemed like a good idea, too, but only amounted to a half-assed pipe-dream from some car makers. So what happens if we combine those ideas?
As I drove along, it started making a lot of sense to me, and I proved a point to myself. The point being that we lacked vision in our down-turned, feeble, economically driven mindset. This lack of vision is something that we all seemed to acknowledge in our loss of Steve Jobs, but why isn’t it something we try to overturn; investing in, encouraging and supporting those who have some? Why aren’t we all seeking out new ways of seeing our lives? Why aren’t we experimenting and adventuring? Everyone I see in the public eye and milling about in society, just seems to be shelled up in bouts of irresponsibility, fear, and short sightedness. So why can’t we have a new way to travel that provides us more options?
Here’s what I came up with: The main “hurdle” of electric cars as reported by the media is their range, but like the SUV, this idea is about owning and driving around everything all the time. What if we bought electric cars with a range of 50 miles and an empty front compartment with a 48 volt plug. 50 miles would get us to the vast majority of the places we want to go, and for the other small percentage we just plug in extra power in that empty space. If we need hundreds of miles, then we plug in some rented batteries, or if we need to go off the grid then we plug in a turbine generator. All the parts and infrastructure are already in place. Think about it.
There is an auto dealership in just about every city in the country, so they could be used for the generator installation and battery swapping. Our roads are already in place, and it seems the US will never fully switch to anything else. And the biggest benefit of this sort of car is that an empty box and a plug will take advantage of what we do best in this country, innovate and compete. With a few standards for plug and power connections, we could see all sorts of plug-in options. I could even see external adapters that allowed for car daisy-chaining or on road recharging. We could have toll roads with overhead power like what we have for electric muni-buses. I can see a different world when I think about it.
What we need is some societal vision and daring to do things differently. Our problem is how we think about cars, not the electric car technologies. We are trying to make them replace an old limiting technology instead of seeing the immensely liberating opportunities they could bring us. Electric and gasoline power are totally different. Where one is heavy and slow to change, the other is light and adaptable. Our mindset with cars is based on a 150 year history of what they can’t do, instead of all the millions of things they could do if we moved forward.
December 20th, 2011 Comments Off
I found this Thor Hammer Mug in a box of toys I had been keeping from my childhood. It is the first ceramic piece I ever made and had fired. I remember making it at age 12 during a summer art camp. I was in to Thor comics, so between my seventh and eighth grades this is what I made. The under-glazes were mislabeled in the studio, so the colors didn’t turn out how I wanted. I think this is the only piece from anyone at the camp that didn’t explode during firing.
That was a great summer being a crazy kid. The summer art camp was held each morning at Mission College, which at the time was surrounded by open fields, and was just one big building. I was in the camp with four of my school buddies, and we were at the very upper age limit for the camp. We got bored pretty easily (Something that at this age happened a lot). By the end of the summer we had to be escorted out of the building by the instructor after each class, because we were causing so much trouble.
We had a habit of taking clay with us from the studio for our mischief. We would shape the clay into what we thought were funny shapes, then fling off the upper stories of the building watching the splat down in the atrium somewhere. Some college students had the pleasure of seeing a clay Mr. Bill explode on the ground next to them as they walked to class. That was when security was called on us and discussions were held. We relished the infamy.
We had a lot of fun. I remember the face painting lesson became war paint day for us. Can you imagine four young boys with war paint running around? I am sure there were some confused people walking through campus those days. Mostly we went out to the fields around the college to “hunt” rabbits. We had created spears, carried rocks, and made traps, but mostly we just ran around like crazy kids trying to scare the wildlife (and any passers-by). We also got the police called on us a few times by poor old pedestrians who thought we were hunting them. Ah, the memories.
Amazing what an old mug can stir up.
December 19th, 2011 > 1
I was vacuuming today and noticed that the bottom of the vacuum cleaner had a notice sticker and a warning label. It was a good thing cause I almost lost a toe while vacuuming. The warning label was the only thing that saved it. Well, not really, but it got me thinking about how many things in this country have warning labels (http://www.mlaw.org/wwl/) compared to other places. On my recent trip to Mexico, it was obvious how different we are as Americans when it comes to safety precautions and liability issues. There must have been hundreds of places, and thousands of things we saw that couldn’t have even operated in the US because of safety concerns.
For example, we went swimming in a 50-meter (Corrected: ~20 meters) deep senote, which is a sinkhole that links to a series of caves and are usually filled with water. Walking down the slippery wet rock tunnel and path to the water, we looked over the unguarded and rail-less vista points down to the water every 10 meters or so. This was an unusual and wonderful place. There were signs that said no jumping, but that was about it. Once down at the water, people were jumping in all over the place off the rocks. There were no signs at the bottom. Jumping into 70 degree water on a blistering day from 4 meters up off of some slippery wet stone stairs is something I will never forget. It was simply awesome.
I can’t say it was completely unregulated, because there was a guard on duty, but the only time he blew his whistle was to stop someone from grabbing the ancient roots that hang down into he water. His job was to protect the senote, not the stupid tourists. I think the wildness and lack of rules and safety apparatus was one of the reasons this place remained so special and amazing. If Ik-Kil was in the US you know admission would be upward of $30-$40 compared to $4. It would be rubberized, lifeguarded, railed off, and turned into a water park with the liability insurance to match. In other words, it would suck. But in Mexico where these places could retain their charm and character, they remained unique and awe inspiring.
Everything on our trip to Mexico was pretty much in the same open air, unregulated state, including the roads (except for the 15 different signs for speed bumps, or topes, which were everywhere). But I’ll tell you, we never saw anyone get hurt. Common sense, responsibility and good judgment seem to be a trait of the Mayan and Mexican locals. The only person we heard of getting hurt at any of these “dangerous” places was at another senote near a ruin, where the guide said that some drunk tourist who couldn’t swim fell in and drowned while his friends watched over 2 years ago.
It seems like the place I came back to is full of retarded infants who have no self-control or common sense compared to the simple nature of southern Mexico. Everything from plastic bags, to mattresses, to vacuum cleaners have to have warning labels on them to keep the manufactures from being sued by some jackass who can’t keep from suffocating on his potato chip bag while vacuuming his bed.
I like the fact that my perspective changed enough on this trip to notice this quark of American society. I guess that’s one of the nice things about traveling, and probably the most rewarding.
*Warning: this message contained suggestions of events, which may be dangerous. The author does not recommend doing them unless in Mexico and claims no liability for your own stupid actions.
December 14th, 2011 Comments Off
This one came from the old shed in the back yard I took down last spring. There were a whole bunch of little bits of things that ended up there from the various occupants and users over the years. This one stood out as something odd to find in an old wooden shed. Let me see if I can dig up a picture of what the shed looked like…
December 11th, 2011 Comments Off
December 6th, 2011 Comments Off
Compost is a great topic with all sorts of room for discussion and investigation, so I am going to take on the topic in parts.
It is also a BIG topic. Understanding compost requires a few layers of biology, a layer of agriculture, a layer of physics, and some thrown in construction, environmentalism, gardening, and spirituality. Well OK, its not that complicated of an idea, but it touches on a lot of important issues.
First and foremost, composting is the rotting of organic material (Not the little green label on food, but things made of molecules that contain carbon) into humus (Not the yummy tan colored food, that’s hummus. Humus is the part of the soil that is organic). Composting happens pretty much everywhere that organic materials occur; forests, oceans, gardens, the dump, behind your refrigerator. You might say that composting is the biological version of entropy; if there is something that can be broken down in nature, it will.
Once the maintaining properties of life leave an object, the doors are opened to a range of organisms that want to recapture any stored energy from that object. In nature, things just keep on rolling, so any creatures whose biological defenses fail become, quite literally, dirt; and that is a good thing. It can happen fast or slow, and through a whole range of processes. Sometimes there are feathered or furry creatures involved, but at a certain point, almost assuredly, some ants come into play. If there is enough chemical energy left in the object for it to become food, then some ants will find it, and eat it. This goes for a piece chocolate you drop, to a damaged flower seed. Eventually though, in all the dark quiet places of the world the more important processes take over .
Fungi and bacteria are the heart of the composting process. They are always in a battle to find food, so living things develop strategies to defend against their onslaught. We, humans shed our skin and hair, we have kamikaze immune white blood cells, acidic stomachs, oils, saliva, you name it, all in an attempt to keep fungi and bacteria away from our energy, i.e. cells and tissues. When those things fail, I think we know of some of the things that can happen; infections, stomach problems, and disease. It’s pretty ugly stuff.
Finally, once things settle down and a little moisture is mixed in, the real work begins; active microbial decomposition. All those brilliant fiber structures, cell membranes, complex molecules, and energetic chemical bonds that make up our beautiful living world are cracked open, broken down over and over again, and become raw materials and energy for a host of microbes.
In the garden, it is the compost’s job to take advantage of this process and turn all the left over organic material back into something that can be used in the garden. It can be as simple as piling up leaves in the Fall, to carefully layering “brown” material with “green” material to build a hot “heap.” Striking a balance can be tough sometimes, when things like, speed, space, smell, and output are considered.
When I first started composting, I was living in a townhouse with a small patio, and I didn’t get the balance right in many ways. Space was limited, I didn’t have access to enough “brown” material, and my inputs were too high. I’ll confess, the outcome was not pleasant for anyone within nose-shot. Not only that, I had good humus mixed in with fresh food material, making deployment of the compost impossible. Here’s some pics of the experiment:
The ideas were sound, but my execution was not so great. The most important thing was that I learned about how a biological composting system functions, and how that sort of composter might work. When building something from scratch, its always good to have some hands-on knowledge to go along with the ideas. I did go on building fortunately, and I now have a good functional 2 yer old system up.
In Compost – Part 2, I will post about the composter I have now, along with my techniques, and what I gain from the activity. Part 3 will be about the ramifications of composting on several levels, and why I do it. Oh, and I have a video to stick in somewhere, too!
T i m o M c I n t o s h. A l l r i g h t s r e s e r v e d.
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