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Oakland Street Art

God's Gym, Oakland Early Morning Downtown Broadway

Oakland is a great city (in spite of its crime problems). It gets no respect, having as elder sisters the dazzling San Francisco and the v. cool Berkeley. Oakland ain't precious, it's got guts. I came in early this morning to shoot this building, which I've passed and admired several times. Then on my way to my favorite Berkeley latte/internet cafe, I kept stopping the truck to shoot yet another photo. Oakland is graphically rich, a lot of ingenuity and down-to-the-bone design. I'll follow this with more pix when I get time.

Straw Bale Building by Bill and Athena Steen

Straw bale "Mandala Shed," built and plastered at two of the workshops sponsored by Bill and Athena Steen at their headquarters in Canelo, Arizona. They are authors of the by-now-classic The Straw Bale House Book and conduct workshops off and on throughout the year. The mandala on the front was formed by carving out various layers of lime and clay. For information on this building, click here.

Notice of Intent to Get Irresponsible and Go Surfing

Last year I set 2009 as a year to take some time off, and therefore I'm taking off next week on a flight to Costa Rica, where I'll meet my good friend from Mexico Chilón, and we'll journey out the the southern Pacific Coast of CR and stay in a beachside house of friends that is west of Puerto Jimínez and close to the Panamanian border. There is surf right out in front of this house and the nearby tropical jungle has howler monkeys, exotic birds, snakes and crocodiles. Chilón has to go back to Baja in 2 weeks, at which time I plan to head south on a bus to Panama City, and make my way to Peru. I'm lugging along my MacBook laptop plus my new little Canon Powershot G-10 (15 MP!) and will post blogs whenever possible. I'm taking along watercolors and sketchbooks as I've long wanted to take the time to draw and try out watercoloring. It's really easy to keep putting off something like this, with all the complexities of running a business in these very difficult times, so I planned for it and got a ticket. My email will be taken care of by people in the office and I'll try to respond to anything that utterly needs my attention from the road. I'll be gone for 6 weeks. If you check back here by say Feb 12-14th, there ought to be some postings from a gringo in the jungle.

Roof-top Tents for Car Camping

Autohome is a company that sells fold-up tents that mount on the roof of your truck or car. I used one (similar to their cheapest one, the "Overcamp" model) for years in Baja California. I would 4-wheel-drive my 1983 Toyota truck to a remote beach, unfold the tent (facing the ocean) and sleep comfortably, looking out at the moon and the water. They are expensive, but it's a great way to sleep on the road, up off the ground, quick to set up, and eliminates the need to haul out a tent, or clutter up the inside of your vehicle with sleeping gear.

Great Book On Solar Hot Water Heating

Solar Hot Water Systems: Lessons Learned 1977 to Today, by Tom Lane.
210 pp., spiral bound, © 2004. $43 from Energy Conservation Services, Gainesville, Florida

My friend Michael Gaspers turned me on to this book. Michael is a carpenter, contractor, and engineer and has for over 30 years been building energy-efficient structures whenever and wherever possible. He really likes this book. Author Tom Lane is a heavily-experienced solar hot water person and this is a book dense with information about state-of-the-art solar hot water devices for homes and pools. Lane points out that while photovoltaic solar electricity-generating systems have recently caught the public's attention, solar hot water systems save way more kilowatt hours for each dollar invested: "…for every $20-30 spent on a PV system, you can save the same amount (of KW hours) for $1 spent on a solar water system." This is a serious book, ideal for contractors, but also for owner-builders seeking the latest information on the subject.

Making It All Worthwhile Department

I got up at 6 this cold, dark, frosty, sunny morning, checked my email and found this comment on one of my recent blogs (wherein I'd said that what a lot of us did in the '60s didn't catch on with the mainstream until now).
Some background for this comment: In 1967 I was foreman on a job building a big-timber house on a ranch in Big Sur. We were living in a chicken coop on the ranch, and would often pick up hitchhikers on our way back and forth into Monterey for supplies. This guy wrote:

"'But it just didn't make it out to the mainstream...'
"I judge that it made it out into the mainstream more than you think. You picked me up hitchhiking in 1967, let me stay in your renovated chicken coop in Big Sur and sent me off the next day with homemade cookies. I saw what you were doing and listened to what you were saying and never forgot it as I made my way through mainstream society for the next however many years as a newspaper editor, state government official, etc. Your influence and vision was always with me. Thank you!"
I thought of it all morning as I drove through the Olema Valley for a 7:30 yoga class. It made the morning glow.

Mushroom Hunting In a Dry Year

Other than for a 30-second downpour yesterday, this central part of California continues a dry spell that is getting scary. In my main mushroom grove yesterday (Oaks, Bays, Hazelnuts, Redwoods), the leaves were damp. but when you scratched down to the soil, it was dry. Mushrooms are deep down, in hiding. On 2 of my recent forays I was lucky to find one lonely Chantrelle each time. There aren't even the usual amanita phalloides (death caps) sprouting mernacingly in the Oak leaves. But even if there are no mushrooms, I love being in the woods. I've learned to follow faint animal trails. Sometimes when there's no obvious route, I put myself in the mind of a coyote, or deer, and the way appears. I'm becoming a mushroom hunter, and it is sharpening my awareness of rain and wind and moisture content of soil.

Sauna in Haida Gwai (Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia)

Some photos of this unique little sauna by Colin Doane on Haida Gwaii (First Nations' name for were the Queen Charlotte Islands) sent us when I was on a book-signing tour. Looks like whalebone rafters in front.

The Earliest Macintosh

A Change Is Gonna Come, Yes It Is

Around 1967, my friend Bob Easton and I talked about the ending of the "old consciousness." It truly did seem like the dawning of a new age, and we thought the world with soon catch up with our countercultural concepts. Well, a lot of us did go off and build houses, or start organic farms, or get politically or ecologically active, etc., but it just didn't make it out to the mainstream. Many of the baby boomer movers and shakers of the age dropped their worship of the planet for the worship of wealth. Greed replaced Green, and we ended up 30+ years later with a murderous, anti-ecological, wrong-in-every-possible-way government. Did you see Cheney's black hat at the inauguration? Puh-leeze! Someone said his arm is about to fly up, like Dr. Strangelove's. It was an emotional day for me, I have to admit. I've been waiting so long for this. To see this beautiful man, and his beautiful and strong and smart wife, and beautiful little girls, with his cool and intelligent demeanor, and to have played that music on Sunday, I mean: Stevie Wonder, Usher and Shakira; Herbie Hancock, Sheryl Crow and Will. I. Am; Mellincamp backed by a kick-ass choir; the ecstatic look on Pete Seeger's face as Bruce Springsteen played backup. Ooo-weee!
To see that moment, with the reign of darkness ending, was just a bit overwhelming. It is a goddamned different consciousness, yes it is! I know I'm naive. I tend to fall in love — with people, places, animals — and am not daunted by past disappointments and failures, and so I'm overboard optimistic about the future. Just to be moving in the right direction. We got a prince for president.
Jon Carrol, the very fine and often funny San Francisco Chronicle columnist wrote something about Al Green's version of A Change is Gonna Come, and I looked it up on YouTube and here is just an amazing performance, from 1995. Somebody say Oh Yeah!

A Cold Clear Sunny Day in D.C.


Tears of Joy

I didn't know about the Sunday concert (We Are One-The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial) on HBO, I just happened to walk by the TV at the precise moment that Bettye LaVette walked onstage and started singing. "I was born by the river…" of Sam Cooke's A Change is Gonna Come. I was riveted. And then what happens? Out strolls Jon Bon Jovi, who I've never seen before, and what a voice! The duet was gorgeous. "A change is gonna come, yes it will…" It made me cry. All these years of darkness and greed, can it be true that the sun is going to shine on this country again?

You Can Take the Boy Out of California, But You Can't Take California…

I love getting out of California, but I love getting back. From a Southwest Airlines flight, here is a view of the Rockies as we head west. Then, later, some only-in-America gorgeous canyon lands.

As we pass lake Tahoe and get to Sacramento, my heart skips a beat as I see the gentle green hills of California: with all her faults I love her still.

Powder Snow and Mountain Lion Tracks at 9000' Elevation

Bob's house is at 7000'. The first day up in the mountains with him, I felt like I had cotton in my mouth. But the next couple of days I felt surprisingly good. It was probably the elation of being out in the powdery snow, with the blue skies, the cold clear air, so different from California. After falling a few times I got the knack of snowshoeing.

On the 3rd day we went up with Bob's friends Larry and Billy. It was a beautiful Rocky Mountain morning. Bob leads the way, he's like a coyote following animal trails. He keeps his pace down so we can keep up. Larry and I discover common interests is Native Americans, Baja, and wild animal skeletons and I'm so excited I forget to be tired.

We're up in the hills for almost two hours and on the way back discover these mountain lion tracks. This was a big cat. You can almost see him, bounding through the snow, fwump, fwump, fwump.

Snowshoeing With Bob Anderson in Rocky Mountains

Yesterday I got up at 2:30 AM to catch a 6 AM Southwest flight to Colorado to visit my longtime friends Bob and Jean Anderson at their home in a small town near Colorado Springs. They are the authors of our best-selling book Stretching and the purpose of my visit was to work on our forthcoming 30th anniversary edition of the book. Their home is on the eastern edge of the Rockies, where the mountain range tapers down into the plains going toward Kansas. Bob is a mountain runner, cyclist, hiker, snowshoer and explorer, and spends maybe 10-15 hours a week in the mountains. Each time I visit, we go out in the mountains for a workout. We invariably stay way longer than I would on my own, and it's always an exhilarating experience. Yesterday an hour after I arrived we went out snowshoeing (my first time) in the powder snow along with Bob's dog Martin. The terrain in the photo at left is a lot steeper than it looks. Bob took me along secret trails, pointing out mountain lion tracks in the snow.

Architectural Excellence in Downtown Oakland

This building is on Broadway in Oakland. I drove by it earlier this morning. They don't make 'em like this any more. Look at all that lovely turreted work at the top. Would any architect do something like this these days, strictly for (non-functional) beauty? No way, José!

All Whole Earth publications online

From http://boingboing.net/:
Kevin Kelly reports the exciting news that all the Whole Earth-related publications from the last 40 year are scanned and online at wholeearth.com.

"One could read back issues if you could find them. I had the privilege of producing many of the issues of CoEvolution Quarterly and some of the Catalogs, so I had my own personal library of them. (Therefore you should also discount my enthusiasm for them.) I can't tell you how many wonderful evenings I have spent sitting in my reading chair re-exploring the fantastic worlds captured in these back issues. It is impossible to pick one up and not be mesmerized, thrilled, amazed, and informed by at least two stories or reviews. There is a timeless nature to this work that is due to their anti-fashionable status. The Whole Earth Catalogs and CoEvolutions were idea-based journalism, rather than event-based. Instead of reporting on top of things, they liked to get to the bottom of things. These issues zagged while the rest of the culture zigged, only to zag later.
The good news is that all this goodness is now online. Danica Remy and the last holdouts of the old Point Foundation, publishers of the Catalogs and magazine until its last issue in 2002, have given a second life to this gold mine of material by arranging them to be scanned and posted online. The entire 35-year archive of Whole Earth Catalogs, Supplements, Reviews and CoEvolutions are all up and ready to be studied. You can read them for free, or download them for a fee."
-Kevin Kelly

The Whole Earth Catalog Archive

The Mind, After All, Resides in the Body

A message for you guys: at age 70, it's a different ball game. Harder to stay in shape. Excuses more finely honed. Too cold to get in the water. Too late to take a run. Not enough time to work out. There's also the fascination with my work right now, and the long hours at a keyboard/monitor necessary in putting together books and running a business. I've never been more excited with my work and consequently never had such a hard time breaking away to work the body.
Over the last year I lost a lot of ground. My last book was so time-consuming I got to a low in the physical activity department. My running dropped way off; less surfing and paddling meant loss of upper body strength. When the book was done I got a wake-up call. Use it or lose it. So true.
I'm pushing myself to get out there. Even if it's just running a mile or two. Or like earlier today I decided to go for a paddle and the lazy guy on my one shoulder said, the water is so cold, you can work at the Mac a while longer, then go in and sit by the fire. But the healthy guy on my other shoulder said get in the water dude, you know it'll make you feel better. Sure enough it did.
I find this again and again. Trying to push myself to do something physical, whatever form it takes. Maybe just walking around the block. Jumping in the creek. A run way scaled back from my serious training days. Don't neglect the body. As stretching guru Bob Anderson says, "You never hear anyone say, "I'm sorry I worked out.'" I guess I'm writing about it because at my age it's so easy to give up and every time I grab hold of myself and propel myself out into the physical world, my body and my mind feel infinitely better.

Timber Cove Inn Reborn

Beniamano Bufano's Peace statue at the newly refurbished Timber Cove Inn, about a 2-hour drive up the Pacific Coast from San Francisco. The Timber Cove Inn was built in 1960 by Richard Clements, on a beautiful stretch of the Mendocino coast. ( In the early '60s I had an agreement with Clements to cut redwood shakes out of windfall trees on his property.) The Inn was a destination place, but over the years it got worn down and worn out. I'd heard that it had new owners and had been fixed up, so I stopped in for a beer (oat stout on tap) and hamburger last Sunday on my way home. The place sparkles. It's a wonderful (2-1/2 million $) renovation. Bufano's statue is out on the rocks to the south. There are 50 rooms, all with ocean view. Food seems great. Rooms seem to start at $180.

Nice Architecture in the Napa Valley

This is an elegant design, but there are also a bunch of dreadful huge winery buildings that are tasteless and clueless in this beautiful valley.

Lloyd on Oprah's New Network?

Over the weekend I got an email from some independent film producers in L.A. "We are looking for interesting people, artists, activists, professors, etc. to interview about 'living your best life.'" They were producing a segment for Oprah's new network show, OWN, and the director was Jesse Dylan. I met the crew at Muir Woods and they did about a 10-minute interview with me standing under the redwoods, with Jesse doing the interviewing, and me blabbing as usual. When it was over we walked back to the production trailer through the light rain. I told Jesse I'd grown up in San Francisco, and he asked if I liked the Grateful Dead. By way of answering, I said, "Know what a Deadhead says when he runs out of pot? — This music sucks!" I went on to say that in those days I listened to the Stones, Beatles and Bob Dylan. "That's my dad." he said. I didn't know. When I got back I looked up his work, which happens to be very cool:

SunRay Kelley's Natural Materials Temple

After a Friday morning of marketing brainstorming with my man Kevin Votel of Publishers Group West, I went to see my wheelchair-bound friend Sherman in Oakland. Even though Sherm pretty much can't move any of his limbs, he still manages to play jokes and practice mischief. From there I headed up to see my friend Louie on the Mendocino coast, with a diversion to Harbin Hot Springs to soak in the hot hot pool where the water comes in at about 110° straight out of the canyon. While there I shot this photo of the temple built by SunRay Kelley, a masterpiece of natural and sustainable materials and organic design. Right now I'm in Louie's studio looking out on a sunny meadow against a backdrop of redwoods and hooked up via a s-l-o-w modem. Such are the compromises of being in the beauty of the country.

The Band & Muddy Waters - Mannish Boy(Live)

The real Muddy Waters, late in his life, performing with The Band in their Last Waltz concert in San Francisco in the '70s.

The International House of Cards is Collapsing

Our production-meister Rick Gordon sent me this on the recent financial collapse, his email was titled: (Happy New Year [anyhow] from Rick Gordon):

The bottom of this SF Chronicle article —
Market meltdown: Where did all the money go?
— has an interesting analysis of the the market crash. I've also quoted the pertinent portion below (my emphasis added):
Charles Biderman, chief executive of TrimTabs Investment Research in Sausalito, has a different explanation. He says that from the market's bottom in 2003 until its peak in 2007, the market value of all publicly traded stocks worldwide grew from about $20 trillion to $45 trillion.
During this period, only about $1.5 trillion in cash went into the market. Debt accounted for some of the remaining increase in market capitalization, but most of it existed only on paper. "Market capitalization and money aren't necessarily related," he says.
Suppose a company has 1 million shares of stock priced at $100 each, giving it a market value of $100 million. Over the next few days, someone buys $5 million worth of stock. Speculation drives the share price to $140, and suddenly, the company has a market value of $140 million. In this case, a $5 million investment has created a $40 million increase in market value.
Is the company really worth $140 million? Not if everyone tried to sell their stock at once. The first person might get $140, but everyone else would get less, probably much less. "It's not any different than a Ponzi scheme, a legal one," Biderman says.
The same thing happens in real estate. Suppose the house next door sells for $700,000. Suddenly, every family on the block thinks their house is worth $700,000. But if everyone on the block put their house on the market, everyone could not get $700,000.
Multiply that by just about every asset class in the world, and you'll get a sense of what happened last year. "The perceived value evaporated," says Ken Winans, president of Winans International, a research and money management firm in Novato. "Are there trillions of dollars that have simply evaporated? The answer is yes."
An enlightening and entertaining analysis of how deep this process is — and why even if the stocks were only valued at their actual cash investment, it would only be a drop in the bucket — can be found in this 47-minute video:
  Money As Debt
(Don't get discouraged by the 16 seconds of blank video at the beginning.) Check it out.

Happy New Year!

Shingled 2-Story Home in Berkeley

I left home about 6 this morning. It was driving rain. I came along the coast and thick fog slowed everything to a crawl. Mountain on the left, crashing ocean 500 feet down on the right. Finally out of wild country to the freeway, hooo! Civilized, mon. Into Berkeley, a fine charming, exciting city. There are 1000s of great homes in Berkeley and Oakland, like this one I passed an hour ago. Why can't architects design something this simple and elegant?

An Observer in Present-day Palestine

A house built on stilts in the Palestinian village Bruqin to avoid paying taxes (Palestinians pay according to square footage on the ground!). This is from http://www.annainthemiddleeast.com/,which I just ran across today: Anna Baltzer's observations in Palestine. The blog's subtitle: Anna's Eyewitness Reports from Palestine: Stories & photographs from a Jewish American's peacework documenting human rights abuses & supporting nonviolent direct action in the West Bank with the Int'l Women's Peace Service

I got into blogging with mixed feelings a few years ago. I didn't want yet another electronic obligation, but I keep running across wonderful and/or interesting stuff in the world and want to pass it along. I started out doing long blogs, once or twice a month, and have evolved into every few days. I'm into it. So if you check me out once a week, you'll see what I'm running across in this new and changing year. In February I'm heading to Costa Rica to live in a surfer's shack on a beach near the Pacific Ocean border with Panama. for a few weeks, then to Panama City on a bus and then get a flight to Brazil, in part to visit Johan van Lengen and see his wonderful school for ecological building in the Atlantic rainforest, where he says there are "…no lack of birds and butterflies, not to mention monkeys and all kinds of snakes…" I'll be blogging when I can.