A Long Slow Golden Fall

I’m temporarily plumbing depths of procrastination and self loathing that I haven’t seen since my thesis.  I should be writing testimony for the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to ignore right now, but I’m not.  Because it seems futile?  Because it’s so impersonal?  Because the box we’re supposed to stay in is so small and lame?  Maybe this means it’s time for a more different job.

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Some folks who lived at Masala when I moved in are moving back to Boulder. I didn’t get to know well enough before they left and got married and reproduced.  I’m looking forward to getting to know all three of them better.  To maybe having a persistent interaction with a kid.  And an excuse to make a bike that carries kids.  Always looking for an excuse to make another bike.

Some good friends are leaving the co-op, pulled away by academia.  Social churn and transience.  It seems strange to be the stable one.  Only person in the house that’s been here longer than me now is Lincoln, Our Founder.  It’s interesting to see how the relationship with the house changes over time.  Still love it, but would be up for another incarnation too.  With more stability and people who have all already learned the basic lessons of living together… rather than always having a few people that don’t quite seem to get it.  We have most of the money and people that would be required to buy our own place and make it a co-op.  But that would be illegal.  Which is infuriating.  So we’re trying to change the law, but it feels like a distraction — I’d much rather do the work of creating community itself, instead of the meta-work of making it legal to live in communities.

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The long slow fall has been wonderful.  Golden leaves and freakishly warm days juxtaposed against each other.  I sleep out on my little deck every night and watch the stars slowly wheel across the sky as the season changes.  Orion and the Pleiades.   It’ll be snowy soon.  The weather could be completely different in a week.

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It’s been a celibate year.  The first once since 2001-2002.  More than friends, less than lovers, and back to singledom.  I’ve felt old this year — a pinched nerve in my neck, lots of gray hairs.  I’ve also felt superhuman — a 150 mile bike ride across the continental divide and back.

I need to read more books.  I’ve even thought that maybe I need to write a book: Amateur Earthlings.  The two might go well together.  Long form ideas are the best.  Impossible to hold in your head all at once, but wonderful.

I need more quantitative folks in my social sphere.  More scientists and engineers.  I miss being embedded in a microculture that not only values that kind of knowing, but where it’s the default — where there’s an underlying assumption that people can understand the world that way.  Not to say that it’s the only valuable way of knowledge… but it’s my way most of the time, and being outside of that sphere makes me feel like an outsider.

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Local politics is both fun and frustrating.  I’ve made enemies for the first time.  People who actively want to undermine me because of my ideas and values and willingness to participate.  That’s been an interesting experience.  There are also unexpected, almost uncomfortable allies.  It’s interesting to work with someone on something you agree on, while knowing that you disagree on something else, and might end up working against each other there. And of course it all feels glacially slow.  There’s always that voice the the back of my head that wants a revolution.

And always that voice in the back of my head that wants a bike tour, too.


The Frequency of Love

Do I fall in love too easily?  Foolishly?  Frequently?  It’s a funny think to think about.  How often do you want fall in love?

Falling in love is emotionally immersive.  Careening toward another human being, drawn down into their gravity well, and like diving into a black hole, you never quite reach the center.  There’s always a little bit of distance left to bridge.

Fall in love too rarely, and it might mean you’re alone.  Yearning.  Isolated.  Or it might mean you’re in love.  Attached.  Satisfied.  If you’re falling in love frequently, you might be skipping from one partner to another.  Always falling, always missing.  Addicted to the plunge?  Deceiving yourself about the connection and running away when it fizzles? Or in our strange little micro-society, it might mean the tendrils of your love are many and branching. Mercurial love, as a non-rivalrous (public?) good.

When it’s rare, it feels precious, and something about that feels good.  But the spaces in between are lonely.  I put my loves in bins, retrospectively.  Was it real?  Or a delusion?  Why is it so hard to tell at the time?  Or does it depend on how it ends?  Mostly I think it correlates with the dreams I had while in the thick of it.  The involuntary visions of a future together.  Expectation.  Mother of disappointment?

In hindsight, I had three loves in the first decade of this century.  Two thirds of them reciprocated.  Is that too many?  Or too few?  Seven years were dedicated to just one of them — they were rare by virtue of stability.  Two loves in the other three years.  One love every 18 months?  If I were finding one new person that I felt deeply connected to every year and a half, and if they were accumulating around me in a pile, then that would feel opulent.  It only takes a few other people for me to feel awash in a sea of emotional interconnectedness.  Maybe I’m sensitive that way.

But by and large, they don’t seem to accumulate.  Partly it’s the serial nature of our connections.  The broader societal norm is that you connect to one person at a time, in sequence.  And not just in the sense of monogamy — there’s a more pervasive kind of seriality, in that most of us in America don’t spend most of our time embedded in a densely connected social network.  For the most part, we seem to have fairly disconnected social domains — work, school, family, friends — sorted by context and activity.  Even within each of those, we often find the hub-and-spoke topology.  Each person as the center of their own social universe, and able to cut loose a connection gone bad with modest impacts on the overall structure.

So I’m thankful to be immersed in Boulder’s cooperative scene — dozens of people with a mass of connections between them.  It’s something like what I’m looking for.  I work and live and play with many of the same people.  But it still has a feeling of transience.  Ephemeral. Changing.  People come and go, even if the network has some durability.  Not everybody comes and goes of course — there are some people who have decided to make this place their home.  We need a way to make that community concrete.  To put down roots.  We want to make and own a home together.  A base of operations.  A hearth and table.  An all star team?  A family of friends.  We need to change a law to do it.  Because community like this is illegal in America.  In Boulder.

Our microsociety is strewn with once and future lovers.  When you come into a scene like this, you don’t just meet people, you meet the relationships between people.  You get to know their history.  Their shared passions and ongoing conflicts.  The intimate mess that is humanity.  It’s hard to hide things here.  Secrets are leaky.

If I’m going to fall in love frequently, I don’t want to lose those loves.  Maybe falling can also be way to get close for other ends.


Slow Fi Sci

Teresa’s been on the other side of the world for a couple of weeks.  Across plains and seas.  She’s coming home now.  It’ll take less than a day.  In the beginning she was 8 hours away (Italy), and in the end 7 (Scotland), but also with the late high north solstice sun.  Briefly she’ll share the slice of time her mom inhabits, the same slice of sky.  It’s been nice thinking about her way off out of phase.

Oh, Teresa’s waking up now maybe she’ll call.

Or now she’s sleeping.  Until I go to bed.  One night’s sleep behind.

You get used to thinking of that parallel but not quite shared experience in a couple of weeks.  I guess it would happen if you worked different shifts in the same place, or just had different sleep schedules (god knows I’ve explored that one enough already), but you could imagine in a slow fi future, a low-energy high-technology future, there’d be a special kind of out of phase.  Geographically out of phase.  How far away in daily experience you were would only change slowly, and you’d see someone approaching from far away — across near instantaneous communications — by how close they got to you in time.  I’m getting up?  They’ve been up for 4 hours.  3 hours.  2 hours.  Now I can get up early, and they can get up late, and we’re on the same schedule, until we merge back together into the same space, and the same time.  But at least this way, we’ve got the same period, so once you get together you can stay there.

In the early days of the MER missions, people moved to a 24.5 hour day to share their experience, their routines, with our remote envoys.  Not only out of phase, but a different wavelength.  Occasionally passing through the same day as your family, but then vanishing back into Martian time.  I’ve been deeply out of phase before, like living in a ghost world.  But that would be stranger I think.  A temporal commute.  Flashbacks to the world of the living.  Not quite dead.

Or an interplanetary spacecraft, with people in cryosleep, with different periods of consciousness.  Different rates of aging.  Different rates of living.  Fast and slow burn humans.  Or intelligences.

But anyway, I get to snuggle with this particular traveling intelligence tomorrow night.


Sunny Brooklyn

Coffee and a muffin at Sit and Wonder.  Bustling with holiday traffic.  People just want to hang out and talk about their court cases, stemming from violence directed toward a barricade last month.  This place is clearly part of the caffeinated bicycling with your yoga mat urban archipelago.  Billboards advertizing Portlandia abound.  Pulsating Apple logos everywhere.

The city here isn’t so tall.  Three or four or five or six stories.  At this density you get a residential neighborhood feel when you’re not on one of the main roads, but busy is only five minutes away.  Maybe more than anywhere I’ve ever been, I can’t believe they let cars into this city.  Whenever I walk somewhere I’m shocked at how quickly I get there.  Oh, there’s a wine shop just a block away.  Well look at that, Babeland is right next door to Ride Brooklyn.  Chinese take-out behind bullet proof glass (a holdover from the rougher days of… 4 years ago), Cuban cafe, Israeli vegan hummus cafe with steaming fresh pitas and silver Stars of David, Very Tight Pants, and comically enormous bleached blonde bouffants.

I biked from Park Slope to the Upper West Side yesterday in the frigid wind and glorious sun.  The protected lanes on 8th and 9th Avenues are great.  They could be better separated though, and much longer.  I made a loop around Central Park to meet up with a friend who works at the natural history museum.  My phone battery died for no good reason in the park, leaving me stranded in meat and paper space.  But I had a map.  And it turns out people are friendly, if you find yourself with a reason to talk to them.  We headed back toward Washington Square, where I spent the first part of the week at the coal finance conference.  Funny how just 4 days in a place if you’re walking around somehow makes it feel homey.  Familiar, relatively.  A tiny urban home range.  We sat on a cafe couch and drank beer and coffee, talked about how academics have started marrying into their departments.  Until she had to catch her train out to the hinterlands of Lon Guyland, and I pedaled off into the night along the edge of the towering bank buildings, accelerating for take-off across the river through the old Chinatown.  Pedaling hard to stay warm, and then sliding down the other side.  Brooklyn doesn’t feel as familiar, I think mostly because I’ve been biking around it instead of walking.  Or, it feels familiar, but at a slightly different scale.  Miles instead of blocks.  A different resolution.  I don’t know what’s hiding in all the in-between spots.

With only one introduction here, to Misha, who works for ITDP‘s New York office on (of all things) international parking policy, and a couple of days of socializing and conference schmoozing, the place doesn’t seem completely foreign.  It makes me wonder how difficult it would have been for me to go to a completely new place two years ago.  If I’d just headed to Portland, what would that have been like?  Would I have gotten connected quickly enough?  Found a place and a people to come home to?  Faster maybe, without the crutch of familiarity?  But I can’t really remember what I felt like then.  How lost.

The sidewalks are wide enough to hold hands here.  If only I’d brought a hand to hold.  Looking forward to getting back to my funky home by the mountains.


Hardening Bits

I sent my phone through the wash a couple of months ago, and no amount of stewing in a bowl of dry rice was able to bring it back.  So I got a replacement on eBay — an unlocked Nexus One which also happened to be rooted (I wasn’t looking for that in particular; it was just what came up at the time at a reasonable price).  Shortly thereafter, my GMail account got hacked, or my address book lifted and used for spamming.  I changed a password.  Then my Twitter account sent out a bunch of spammy links.  Of course everyone knows that using the same password in a bunch of different places is a bad idea.  And most easily memorable passwords are at least somewhat susceptible to dictionary attacks.  And of course everyone does it anyway.  I wondered if there might have been some malevolent bytes within the compromised phone (remembering of course that uncompromised phones are also often full of malevolent bytes).  It’s been lingering in the back of my mind.

So today I finally took on the machines, and did a whole giant pile of security crap.  I managed to flash a reputable ROM into my phone.  I set up the now native full disk encryption on my boot disk.  I got off-site encrypted backups running using SpiderOak (though… with 200GB of stuff to upload, that’s gonna take a while to finish).  I set up Google’s 2-factor authentication.  And I changed dozens of passwords all over the web to be long and unmemorable and unique.  Of course that means the machine has to remember them for me… but overall, I think this is less likely to result in cascading failures.

Not my favorite way to spend a Saturday in summer, but once or twice a year, days like this are necessary.


Cooperative Volleyball Picnic

We’ve been trying to get the two Boulder Housing Coalition co-ops a little bit more sociably integrated lately.  Making sure that we invite them over whenever we have a get together, doing dinner guest exchanges back and forth, and the occasional joint outing.  More than half of their household (7 of 13) is turning over this lease cycle, which is hard on a co-op’s social fabric and institutional memory.  It also makes the membership process pretty daunting.  Zac planned an afternoon of volleyball.  It was blazing hot, but with a little shade and a lot of lemonade, it was fun.  Definitely looking forward to future cooperative mingling.


Moving to Masala

Early Morning Masala

As Bryan is heading off to circle the globe in a few days I’ve had to find a new place to live.  His condo is worth more rented out in its entirety than as a combination of two rooms.  As luck would have it, there was a summer sublet (with the option to renew) open in the Masala Co-op, where I lived in the summer of 2004 (after serving on the board of the Boulder Housing Coalition, which owns the co-op houses in Boulder).

I decided to renovate my room, since I had the time, and no hard pressure to move.  I did some soundproofing between the room and the common areas, re-painted, and built myself a big sleeping loft.  Then I moved all my stuff across town by bike.

Here are some pictures of the new space, before, during and after the work.


Escape to Elk Mountain

Dark Skies

Kurt and Kerry and I went on a week long bike tour from Boulder to Elk Mountain, Wyoming and back, with about half the miles on dirt roads.  It was 800 km in all, with sun and snow and mud, as well as a cracked rim, elk, moose, and antelope.  We took 4 epic days to get up there, and Kurt made it back in 2.  Kerry and I came back via North Park and Cameron Pass, skipping the last leg from Ft. Collins by taking the bus, and it still took 4 days.  Four nice, non-epic days.  This was not a gentle introduction to touring!  Thankfully Kerry still thought it was fun and wants to go again.

This post has nearly 100 photos in it, so it’ll take a minute to load.  Just go make a cup of tea or something.


Dirt Season at the Hawthorn Garden

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Hike and Bike at Karl’s House

I tagged along with Kira to go visit Karl and his awesome house up Wagonwheel Gap Road off of Lee Hill. We went for a hike and cooked dinner together. It was pretty awesome. The Bike Culture meetup is there in June. Should be fun!