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Flying, a Poem by Richard Wilbur

Treetops are not so high
Nor I so low
That I don’t instinctively know
How it would be to fly
Through gaps that the wind makes, when
The leaves arouse
And there is a lifting of boughs
That settle and lift again.
Whatever my kind may be,
It is not absurd
To confuse myself with a bird
For the space of a reverie:
My species never flew,
But I somehow know
It is something that long ago
I almost adapted to.

—Richard Wilbur

From the Aug. 31 2009 issue of The New Yorker

Grossly Overblown $2 Million House Raffle Award

Is this a joke? Everyone in Marin County got color brochures for the raffle of this waste-of-resources 3000-sq. ft house. The "Dream House Raffle." Tickets are $150. Winner either gets the $2 million house or $1.6 million cash. "Dual Zone Heating and AC - Luxurious large bathrooms - High ceilings - Lush landscaping"
And what is this a benefit for?
"Community Action Marin is a private non-profit 501(c)(3) social service agency serving and assisting low-income Marin residents in achieving a life of quality based on self-sufficiency."
Hey, Community Action Marin: hasn't anyone pointed out the irony of touting a resource-wasting ugly home (that will burn tons of resources in just heating and cooling) as a means of raising money for low-income people? Get a grip!

Happy People Dancing on Planet Earth

This is so great. Stay with it; it gets better as it goes along. Had me laughing out loud.
"Happiness and dancing transcend political boundaries and occur in practically every human society. Matt Harding traveled through many nations on Earth, started dancing, and filmed the result…a dramatic example that humans from all over planet Earth feel a common bond as part of a single species. Happiness is frequently contagious -- few people…watch the above video without smiling."

See: http://www.wherethehellismatt.com/

Quote from Red Square, by Martin Cruz Smith

"Better, the village was surrounded by the lush tangle and wonderful disrepair of old forest.Tier upon tier of birches, ash, broad-leafed beeches, larches, spruces and oaks that the sun penetrated only in providential single rays that searched for mushrooms. Everything was still and moving at once: ground litter alive with the tunneling of shrews and moles, an explosion of needles and leaves when a hare left its cover, warblers and tits cleaning branches of caterpillars, woodpeckers ministering to the trunks, the cello drone of insects. Veshiki was the fantasy of all Russians, the village of perfect dachas."

Three 10-Minute Workouts For a Busy Day in the Office

Don't even have time for a 30-minute workout some days? Here are three 10-minute workouts, quick exercises to do on those "busy days." It's all on one page that you can keep in your desk drawer (or on the wall). To download a good screen-size print-out, click on the image below for an Adobe PDF:

From: Getting Back in Shape © 2002
Shelter Publications, Inc., Bolinas, CA

Bees in the Garden, Fish in the Sea

About 6 weeks ago, schools of sardines materialized off our coast, the pelicans started dive-bombing, the bigger fish arrived, and fishing has been great ever since. Halibut, sea bass, rock fish — all brought in by local boats. Fisherman Josh says, "The ocean's healthy." Believe me, fish eaten the same day as caught are different from anything you find in a market.
And just now, sitting in the morning sunshine in the garden, I noticed honeybees everywhere. Bee colonies got knocked hard by diseases (and crop poisons) in the last 10 years, but are on the rebound, at least around here. Right now they're brushing golden pollen onto their hind legs, which they'll take back to the hive. It's win-win, since they're pollinating plants while gathering food. (Is this inadvertent? Maybe not. )
Not everything is doom and gloom.
Bee photo from: http://www.dereila.ca/whispers/two.html

Houses Built of Trash in Small Texas Town

Dan Phillips, 64, says: “Look at kids playing with blocks… I think it’s in everyone’s DNA to want to be a builder.” Dan has so far built 14 houses in Hunstville, Texas, out of mostly salvaged materials.
"About 12 years ago, Mr. Phillips began his latest career: building low-income housing out of trash.…Freed by necessity from what he calls the 'tyranny of the two-by-four and four-by-eight,' common sizes for studs and sheets of plywood, respectively, Mr. Phillips makes use of end cuts discarded by other builders — he nails them together into sturdy and visually interesting grids. He also makes use of mismatched bricks, shards of ceramic tiles, shattered mirrors, bottle butts, wine corks, old DVDs and even bones from nearby cattle yards."
New York Times article Sept. 2, 2009 by Kate Murphy: http://bit.ly/8yLN5. Photos: Michael Stravato; article sent by Mary Haggerty

Photo Burning Man 2006

San Francisco architect Rod Fairbairn-Smith shot a whole bunch of fantastic photos at Burning Man 2006.

Meg Pickard on Getting Most Out of iPhone Camera

Geisha by Meg Pickard.
Meg Pickard: "The thing about this photo is that if I’d used a “proper” camera, it would have undoubtedly have caused too much attention, and would have spoilt the composition. As it was, I was only able to get this picture by holding the camphone at a most strange angle by my face (perhaps the other passengers thought I was very short sighted, and just reading a text message?) but the crucial thing is that this photo simply couldn’t have been captured in such a spontaneous way without a piece of photographic capturing kit which enabled spontaneity: A cameraphone."

Reverting to the Wild: Abandoned Houses

Jim and Wood are parents, a lawyer and ex-lawyer, raising their kids in Detroit. They have this wonderful website, which includes these shots of abandoned buildings. I've shot 100s and 100s of pictures of abandoned buildings over the years, so this really resonates.
"I've seen "feral" used to describe dogs, cats, even goats. But I have wondered if it couldn't also be used to describe certain houses in Detroit. Abandoned houses are really no big deal here. Some estimate that there are as many as 10,000 abandoned structures at any given time, and that seems conservative. But for a few beautiful months during the summer, some of these houses become "feral" in every sense: they disappear behind ivy or the untended shrubs and trees planted generations ago to decorate their yards. The wood that framed the rooms gets crushed by trees rooted still in the earth. The burnt lime, sand, gravel, and plaster slowly erode into dust, encouraged by ivy spreading tentacles in its endless search for more sunlight."
Jim and Wood's website is called Sweet Juniper: http://bit.ly/15Y7rw
Kevin Kelly turned me on to this blog.

Tree Shaping

Artist Peter Cook sitting on a shaped tree. The tree was planted in 1998 and grown via the Pooktre method.
"Tree shaping, known under a variety of names,[1] is the art and technique of growing and shaping trunks, branches and roots of trees and other woody plants. By grafting, shaping, and pruning the woody trunks, or guiding branches, trees are made to grow into ornamental or useful shapes."

Railing Detail

This is a landing on outside stairs at the Commonweal Health Center. The wire is a great way to stop kids from falling through (and saving wood, since codes require 36" be covered). and looks good too. Nice design detail.

Beach Graffiti

I love graffiti. It's free, spontaneous, not controlled by officials, not taught in art school, not managed by dealers or galleries. This one appeared in the last few weeks on the beach — which is periodically patrolled by great white sharks..

Mark Morford On Burning Man 2009

San Francisco columnist Mark Morford now on his 6th trip to Burning Man, is "… hereby reminded of a few hundred truths, half-truths, outright lies and astonishing epiphanies offered up by the world-famous, Christian-feared, beautifully debauched, sensory overloaded, impossible-to-describe art-survivalist-camping-rave megaspectacle now underway in the remote Nevada desert."
And that Burning Man "…reminds you that you are far from alone in your understanding that this is one hugely painful, incredibly difficult, unbearably gorgeous, terrifying, excruciatingly short life experience…" http://bit.ly/14CQtF
Photo of 2006 Burning man by Rod Fairbairn-Smith

Hanging Kitchen Utensils

Homemade Real Cook/Real Kitchen Tips #1
A one-inch strip of wood, a bunch of nails, a hammer and—voila!—dozens of frequently-used kitchen tools hanging within easy reach. How come you never see things like this in Dwell or Fine Homebuilding?

Watch for future do-it-your self household tips.

On the Beach Yesterday

I'm just starting to use my new Panasonic Lumix G1 camera. I have these (35 mm terminology) lenses: a 28-90mm, and a 90-400 mm (more or less). It's a sensational new camera, half the size of my trusty Canon 20D. The long lens opens up new possibilities. For one thing I can unobtrusively photograph people. Going to take it on our trip to Europe.

Soaring Turkey Buzzard

My favorite flyers in these parts, the birds I most like to watch, are the turkey buzzards. They don't have the noble heads or curved beaks of hawks, but they are unsurpassed in the air. Yesterday I went for a run to a swimming hole. As I got out of the water, a lone turkey buzzard was sailing in circles over me; riding updrafts effortlessly, no wing action at all. For some reason, he kept circling, and I kept watching. After a while I could almost feel myself flying, surfing the air currents. It was a magic 5-or-so minutes. Then another buzzard floated into the horizon, then another, until there were five of them circling. In this photo, look at the pattern of the "shoulders" and body to pure flight feathers.

Horses and Wolves

Thursday at dusk I was running on a fire road along the coast south of Muir beach. Up ahead was a dismounted horseback rider and her horse, standing along the side of the road. As I approached, the horses ears pricked up, his eyes went wide, and he was on full alert. When I got up to them, the rider said to me, "He thinks you're a wolf." I went a few steps beyond them and turned back and said to her, "I'm wearing a necklace with a wolf's tooth."
"Well, that explains everything," she said.

Low-rider Buick in San Jose

What a beauty!
-Photo by Bill Steen. Posted August 29, 2009 on: http://www.caneloproject.blogspot.com/

Bill & Athena Steen: Clay Ovens in Ireland; Strawbale & Mariachis in San Jose, Calif

The Steens, authors of The Strawbale House and the more recent—and excellent—Small Strawbale: Natural Homes, Projects & Designs, have a photo and fact-filled blog on natural building: http://www.caneloproject.blogspot.com/
-Photo of country mill in France by Bill Steen. July, 2009