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Mystery Object Found on Beach

Can an ocean person identify this? Lesley found it on the beach yesterday. It looks like a bunch of eggs, but it's kind of spongily hard.

S.F. Chronicle Flounders On

It's my hometown newspaper. I've been reading it (ulp!) almost 60 years. I don't want it to close down, but it reminds me of a chicken with its head cut off, still running around. They recently made the stunning improvement of printing some sections on glossy paper. Big whoop. Smaller size pages. Well, OK. But now they are desecrating the front page with sleazy ads like this. What an embarrassment. Is anyone at the controls?

Yurt Living in Alaska: Broadband Yes, Toilet No

Bretwood Higman and Erin McKittrick live in a Mongolian yurt high on a spruce-covered mountainside of the Kenai Peninsula in the coastal town of Seldovia, Alaska. Article in Dec. 30 New York Times by Sarah Maslin Nir. Photo by Stuart Isett
Article here.

Rufous-sided Towhee/Tanned Deer Skin

On left: Rufous-sided Towhee in garden this morning, shot through kitchen window,
Ain't he handsome?
On right: Deerskin from road-killed fawn I found near Gualala (CA) a few months ago. I skinned it, then cut up the meat and put in the freezer. I stretched and salted down the hide for a week, then sent it via UPS to a tanning place in Pennsylvania; and voila!—6 weeks later the beautifully tanned hide came back (via UPS). What a win-win situation from an animal that would otherwise have rotted on the road.

Freezing Run in Rain

As I took off on my weekly coastal run last night at 6:30, it was pelting a little rain. I was wearing my Maxit® tights and long-sleeved shirt, and a knitted hemp hat. This outfit has worked for me for years. Even tho it's cold starting, I always get warm after 10-15 minutes of running. Last night I got up to one of "my spots," a finger-like ridge of land that you can walk out on; It's maybe 30' across, with crashing waves on the rocks 500' below on both sides. You stand out on the end facing southeast and the Ocean beach side of San Francisco, it's like being on the prow of a ship. Last night the storm was coming in from the south and the air was perfumed with ozone and ocean essence.
I took off on the rest of the run, climbing up a fire road, light off because moon was full behind clouds. Every so often one of those little mice-hunting owls would float across the road in silent grace. It took about 20 minutes to get to the crest of the hill and I turned around to run back. By now the rain was increasing, and the drops felt just on the verge of being snow. Chilled to the bone. Back at the pub parking lot, changed into clothes in rainstorm, then went in and got a pint with the boys. We were sitting at a candle-lit table, it looked like the middle ages..

Cheap & Useful Tools From China

On Dec. 20, I did a post on the growing concerns I have about all this insanely cheap and useful Chinese-made stuff we all use. Here's a comment today I thought deserved a post of its own:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Stuff Made in China is Too Cheap":
Lloyd - I think I have the same Ryobi set. You're right, its not total crap. Its servicable. I use a Makita drill most of the time, but the Ryobi is great for not having to switch between 2 bit sizes. The circular saw is quite workable, though the battery only lasts a minute or two.
Your larger point is a good one. We don't even have options any more. Sure there are some fine handsaws available if you hunt hard enough, but who among us can really shell out a couple hundred bucks for each of a handful of types of saw? Elite hobbyists (and perhaps genuine craftspeople, although I suspect they are fewer in number) sustain the boutique tool market, not daily tradespeople. We can't all just fire up the forge and fashion a chisel to our liking. I constantly harp on this same issue. Living on a small homestead, I need all kinds of tools as essentially a matter of survival. When I need an axe for hand-splitting kindling, do I pay $250 for a Gransfors, or $25 for a Chinese or Mexican tool at the local hardware store? I'd rather pay $65 or whatever for a decent-enough American one, but they rarely exist as options.
I'm running into the same problem with pumps, solar panels, solar water heaters, and nearly every other aspect of attempting to live more responsibly. It seems its too late to revive American manufacturing, so what can be done?

Power Tools Still Made in the USA


Bob Hope & Jimmy Cagney Tap Dancing

I had no idea Bob Hope could dance.

Homegrown Tomatoes in January

Lesley picked these tomatoes green about a month ago in the greenhouse and, due to the miracle of tomato ripening, they're now sweet. It's great to have a little red sunshine in the dark of winter, and they didn't have to get here on a plane from Mexico. On the right are yerba buena leaves I gathered Sunday, they make delicate mint-like golden tea.

Year of the Tiger

…starts on Feb 14 (Valentine's day) 2010. Year to kick some ass!

Turn Off All Your Electronics For A Day, says Elizabeth Gilbert

"We are the strivingest people who have ever lived. We are ambitious, time-starved, competitive, distracted. We move at full velocity, yet constantly fear we are not doing enough. Though we live longer than any humans before us, our lives feel shorter, restless, breathless... Dear ones, EASE UP. Pump the brakes. Take a step back. Seriously. Take two steps back. Turn off all your electronics and surrender over all your aspirations and do absolutely nothing for a spell. I know, I know – we all need to save the world. But trust me: the world will still need saving tomorrow. In the meantime, you’re going to have a stroke soon (or cause a stroke in somebody else) if you don’t calm the hell down. So go take a walk. Or don’t. Consider actually exhaling. Find a body of water and float. Hit a tennis ball against a wall. Tell your colleagues that you’re off meditating (people take meditation seriously, so you’ll be absolved from guilt) and then actually, secretly, nap. My radical suggestion? Cease participation, if only for one day this year – if only to make sure that we don’t lose forever the rare and vanishing human talent of appreciating ease."
-Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of Eat, Pray, Love. Her new book Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage will be published in January, 2010.
from: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/files/what-matters-now-2.pdf

Chanterelle Year

Just so you know how flaky I am (I think a mentioned this a few years back): when I see my first chanterelle in the woods, I get on my knees and do a Buddhist bow to it, and to the earth that produced it. Yep.
The crab season is good this year, so we've got local crabs + mushrooms, thanks to the rains. These got distributed to about 6 happy neighbors.

Amy Goodman, Democracy Now, Interviews Evo Morales

From Amy Goodman's interview of Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, who was re-elected in a landslide victory earlier this month.
AMY GOODMAN: "How would you do that? How would you end capitalism?"
PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] "It’s changing economic policies, ending luxury, consumerism. It’s ending the struggle to—or this searching for living better. Living better is to exploit human beings. It’s plundering natural resources. It’s egoism and individualism. Therefore, in those promises of capitalism, there is no solidarity or complementarity. There’s no reciprocity. So that’s why we’re trying to think about other ways of living lives and living well, not living better. Not living better. Living better is always at someone else’s expense. Living better is at the expense of destroying the environment.…"
Photo from AP, www.esmas.com

McSweeney/SF Chronicle's Panorama Issue a Bust!

It sounded great. A giant new hard copy prototype newspaper in San Francisco conceived by Dave Eggers, author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and publisher of McSweeney's. I love newspapers, always have (and have ADD when it comes to reading text on a monitor). I tweeted the Panorama news a few weeks ago, and sent off my 16 bucks to the San Francisco Chronicle for the special edition. Well, it arrived a few days ago, and it's an overblown turkey. A newspaper it's not, journalism it's not, editing it hasn't. It's on embarrassingly expensive paper, everything in it is overly long, dull, and calls mightily for the hand of a real editor. It's a waste of paper and ink and people's time. This kind of hard copy will (rightly) drive people back to their monitors.
Last night, I was wondering am I just too old, too unhip, two un-urban, too deprived of city culture due to living in the country? Is everybody else going to think this thing is great? Then this morning I ran across Howard Junker's take on Panorama, and felt a lot better.
"…Panorama isn't visionary, it's just another McSweeney's grab bag, a pastiche, a let's pretend, let's put on a show…"
-See Junker's take on this mess at: zyzzyvaspeaks.blogspot.com.
-Photo above by Steve Rhodes on flickr

Tiny Houses With Disability Access

I just got this comment on my posting of Dec 8. 09 on our forthcoming book on tiny houses: Deena Larsen has left a new comment on your post, "Shelter's New Book on Tiny Houses:"
"In your book, could you spare a couple of pages for disability access? Tiny homes are great and can be lifesavers for the disabled, as they can be less expensive, take less maintenance, and --most importantly--have only 4 painful steps to the bathroom instead of 22.
We are blogging about trying to remodel a 350 sf carraige house to be accessible at http://www.accessahut.wordpress.com
Thanks and I really look forward to seeing your book!"

My reply just now: Deena, that's a wonderful idea. We'll do it! Can you direct me to the parts of your blog that describe what you are doing (have done) with a small house?

Pit House Reconstruction in Pie Town, New Mexico

"Before industry and technology gave us sawmills and frame houses, this is how the average person lived in much of the world. The dugout or pit house, with sod roof, log walls and earthen floor, is among the most ancient of human dwellings -- at some point in history your ancestors lived in one. Especially popular among 19th-century settlers in the Great Plains and deserts of the West and Southwest, where trees and other building materials were scarce, dugouts were warmer in winter and cooler in summer than above-ground structures; just about anywhere in North America the ground temperature three feet down is 55 degrees regardless of the season."
Photo by Russell Lee

Decorative Porches in Serbia

Porch on a house in Palic, Serbia, shot by photographer Leo Hetzl. Leo's wife Marija is from this town. Leo says the porches are traditional Hungarian, from the Austria-Hungarian time.

All That the Rains Bring

The earth around here is feeling good after the rains. Such a relief after a few dry years. Also, after 5 years or so of hunting mushrooms I'm starting to understand the fungi world a bit. Here's yesterday's haul, a side trip on my Sunday run. The yellow/orange ones at top left are chanterelles; the cinnamon colored ones are candy caps—when dried they smell just like maple syrup. THE book for our area is All That the Rain Promises and More: A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms by David Arora, not only informative, but witty and fun.

Riding Louie's Cable

To get to my friend Louie's house this time of year, you have to ride across the river on a 500' cable. Louie was the featured builder in our book Home Work. Click here to see the pages on Louie; (you can click on each of the photos shown to enlarge them).
Louie is shown here getting the bosun's chair ready for the trip. The platform is 30' above the ground. The other photo is one he took when I was about halfway across the river. (The large object coming down from top is the cable.) It's a thrill to go sailing across the turbulent water.
We had a goose for dinner, with Louie's home-made zinfandel that night. Now I had to get back across the river, dark and foggy night. I put on my headlight, climbed the tower on the house side of the river, locked the chair on the cable and with not a small amount of trepidation, let go, sailing out into the black night. It was fantastic, like I was in good hands. Came into the landing platform at a trot, and walked through the fields to Louie's shop, where I stay.

Patti Smith Doing Gloria 2007 jules Holland Show

This is a great Jules Holland show to catch. It's been rerunning this week (shot May 18. 2007). Not only does Patti completely kick ass, but there's Simply Red, and Joe Cocker singing a gospel-type number with 4-voice backup. Incidentally, Jules is a hell of a piano player. Patti is pure power with her incredible version of "Gloria."
Jesus died for somebody's sins,
But not mine…

Stuff Made in China is Too Cheap

A few months ago I bought a set of cordless tools by Ryobi. Drill, circular saw, saber saw, flashlight, 2 18v batteries, for $120. I was sort of thrilled, all these tools, so cheap. Real useful in my shop. But I began to have this nagging feeling; something was wrong here. How much environmental damage due to polluting manufacturing processes? How about the ships bringing this stuff across the oceans that burn rotgut, air-polluting fuel because there are no controls on the high seas? Here in yesterday's paper, a color ad from Home Depot:
• Kit of 125 drill bits for wood, metal, masonry: $15
• 26-piece ratcheting gear wrench set: $2.50
It ain't right.

Poet Nanao Sakai Memorial in Santa Fe

Dan Kuehn, author of Mongolian Cloud Houses (a book on yurts) just sent us an email about a memorial this Monday for Japanese poet Nanao Sakai in Santa Fe:
Nanao Sakaki died a year ago on Winter Solstice. Friends of Nanao will attend a one year memorial at Upaya Zen Center next Monday, December 21, 2009 at 5:30 p.m. Carol Merrill wrote: "If you can't make it... Well, he said it best:"
If you have time to chatter
Read books
If you have time to read
Walk into mountain, desert and ocean
If you have time to walk
Sing Songs and dance
If you have time to dance
Sit quietly, you Happy Lucky Idiot.

I'm a Culture Critic, Get Me Out of Here

James Walcott is a razor-sharp writer, as in this article in the December 09 issue of Vanity Fair on how reality shows have wrecked TV, titled "I'm a Culture Critic, Get Me Out of Here."
"…Younger reality stars may have more mobile faces, though in time they too will acquire the Noh masks of the celebrity undead. Their range of verbal expression runs mostly from chirpy to duh, as if their primpy little mouths were texting. The chatty, petty ricochet of reality TV — the he-said-that-you-said-that-she-said-that-I-said-that-she-said-that-your-fat-gas-can-no-longer-fit-through-the-door — eventually provokes a contrived climax, a "shocking ending" that is tipped off in promos for the show, teasers replayed so frequently that it's as if the TV screen had the hiccups."
"…In the voyeurism of Reality TV, the viewers passivity is kept intact, pampered and massaged and force-fed Chicken McNuggets of carefully edited snippets that permit him or her to sit in easy judgment and feel superior at watching familiar strangers make fools of themselves. Reality TV looks in only one direction: down."

Composting Toilet in Coastal Jungle of Brazil

Our author Johan van Lengen (The Barefoot Architect), his son Peter, and others, run TIBÁ (Bio-Architecture and Intuitive technology), a school for building in the eastern coastal jungle of Brazil. TIBÁ was recently invited to conduct a workshop on sanitation for four diferent local tribes: the Pankararu, the Kariri Xocó, the Tupinambá de Olivença and the Pataxó Hãhãhãe. In four days they built a bason - a composting toilet developed by Johan, as well as a prototype grey water system. This photo shows the chief of the Pankararu tribe studying the Brazilian version of The Barefoot Architect.
Ana Ruivo from TIBÁ wrote us: "The experience of sharing knowledge with these communities was really interesting and rich, and the best thing is that it´s only the beginning.…our goal is…to transmit a lot more of TIBÁ work in many more indigenous communities."
TIBÁ has wonderful workshops for people who want to combine learning about bio-architecture and green building with visiting Brazil.

Crispy Hippie Coffee

My friend Mike Durrie's daughter Jessica runs 2 very cool cafe/coffee roasteries in Princeton, NJ, Small World Coffee. When the local Whole Foods, which carries her coffee, asked for something "…new and exciting,' Jessica emailed Mike: "…the label for the Crispy Hippie…was designed with Lloyd Kahn, of Bolinas, in mind. My graphics guy asked me, 'what do you want this label to look like?' And the only image that popped into my mind was Lloyd skateboarding or surfing. So, I showed my graphics guy a photo of Lloyd and told him the story my dad told me of Lloyd getting a ticket or something for skateboarding up at Sea Ranch. So, anyway, Lloyd, I guess, is the Crispy Hippie! I hope he takes no offense."
Heck Jessica, I'm honored—tote-uh-lee… "…a high density bean that can take the extra heat." Yeah!
Sent us by Michael Mery

Why Didn't the Polar Bear eat the Husky?

"On a late October day on the Canadian tundra next to a gray, cold, but unfrozen Hudson Bay near tiny Churchill, Manitoba, a pack of large Husky dogs, the pride of hunter-trapper Brian LaDoon were comfortably lounging on a fresh bed of snow, each tethered by a long chain. Norbert Rosing, a naturalist and photographer was setting up his equipment to capture the scene. A wild polar bear is approaching the Husky who is signaling an invitation to play.…)" When you get to the following website, click on the right arrow to check out what happens!: http://www.nifplay.org/polar-husky.html
Sent us by Paul Wingate

Big Wave Surfing Last Week at Jaws

Photos shot last week by Michelle Baldwin, at Jaws, a tow-in big-surf break on Maui

Natural Architecture

This is a quick rough shot (takes too long to scan it) of one of the pages from Natural Architecture by Alessandro Rocca, Princeton Architectural Press, 2007. Sixty structures of plant materials, some of which are wonderful.

Forest House

Design by architect Nancy Copley, Hudson Valley, New York State
"Each quadrant is oriented directly to the sun as it rotates from the East in the morning, bathing the living room, then to the South, where large glass panels invite warmth to the living and dining area. A large skylight opens the roof at the indoor garden for the West sun. Sloping exterior walls compliment the triangular surfaces of the copper roof."

Robin Williams on HBO

He started out kind of slow, I was wondering Has he lost it, but then he got rolling, and it was brilliant. Wide-ranging subjects. Anyone living in the country will love his take on raccoons, deer, and coyotes. "Coyotes, which are like dogs on crack…they come into your yard…'Hello, I'm a dog, you have any small animals you don't need?'" He uses a lot of metaphors: Republicans impeaching Clinton for Monica: "…like a bunch of lepers judging a beauty contest"/A functioning alcoholic is like being a paraplegic pole dancer/"And ladies, take an alcoholic home for the night, it's like playing pool with a rope." He did a hilarious bit about the design of the male and female reproductive organs. HBO does it again. http://www.robinwilliams.com/

Peter Aschwanden's New Website

Peter Aschwanden was the illustrator of John Muir's wildly popular How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: the Manual for the Compleat Idiot, of which Wikipedia says: "…Muir's self-published edition sold more than two million copies to become one of the most successful self-published books in history, while its subtitle preceded (and likely inspired) the unending flow of "for Dummies" books from IDG Publishing."

We tracked Peter down in 2001, and he agreed to illustrate our Septic Systems Owner's Manual. He ended up making a book on a rather mundane subject into a work of art, with drawings very much like those of R. Crumb. The cover he came up with looked like one of the '60s Fillmore posters. Peter passed away a few years ago, but family and friends have created a website featuring his posters, T-shirts and books. It's at http://www.peteraschwanden.com:

Leaf-shaped House in Finland

Life on a Leaf - a total work of art
"Have you ever wondered why among all these millions of box shaped buildings, you will never see a house shaped like a shoe, a flower or a leaf? This is the question, which set out artist Jan-Erik Andersson on a long and adventurous journey to build his own leaf shaped house in the middle of Turku city in Finland. The house project, called Life on a Leaf, is also the art part of Andersson’s studies for a doctorate degree in visual arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki."
-Finnish artist Jan-Erik Andersson's leaf-shaped house
-Sent us by Peter Warshall

The Hourglass Surfboard by Thomas Meyerhoffer

"…Swedish designer Thomas Meyerhoffer's longboard, introduced in the spring, has a corseted waist and a narrow tail, with a bottom that is more deeply contoured than a typical board. All that curvaceousness is meant to lend the maneuverability of the shortboard, typically ridden by skilled surfers, to the more stable longboard."
-Article by Jesse Ashlock in NY Times Magazine Dec. 10, 2009
-Photo by Nick Allen

Nice Writing by David Sedaris

"…In a neighborhood of stay-at-home moms, Sean's mother worked. A public-health nurse, she was the one you went to if you woke up with yellow eyes, or had jammed the piece of caramel corn too far into your ear. "Oh you're fine," Jean would say, for that was what she wanted us to call her, not Mrs. Taylor. With her high cheekbones and ever so slightly turned-down mouth, she brought to mind a young Katherine Hepburn. Other mothers might be pretty, might, in their 20s or early 30s, pause at beauty, but Jean was clearly parked there for a lifetime. You'd see her in her flower bed, gardening gloves hanging from the waistband of her slacks like someone clawing to get out, and you just had to wish she was your mom instead."
-From an article titled Loggerheads: Sea turtles and Me by David Sedaris, New Yorker, 12/07/07

Running on Mt. Tamalpais Sunday

Steps on Matt Davis Trail up to Table Rock from Stinson Beach. Old auto on Coastal Trail has been there forever, probably since the '50s.

New Cob House by Ianto Evans and Linda Smiley

On Dec. 12, 2009, Ziggy writes: "After the Natural Building Colloquium in Eagle Point, Oregon, I traveled with Ianto Evans and Linda Smiley to their home in Coquille, OR: Cob Cottage Company. For those unawares, Ianto and Linda are two very influential cob building pioneers in North America, and authors of The Hand-Sculpted House, the number one go-to book for cob construction. They have been a huge inspiration for me during my house design process, and reading their book sealed the deal for building my home out of cob. Ianto and Linda have decades of experience building with mud. It was an honor to be able to meet them and spend several nights at their place. It was a great experience…."

Time, News Corp, Hearst Working on Tablet That Can Handle Color/graphics

"Time Inc., News Corp., Conde Nast, Hearst Corp., and Meredith Corp., whose magazines include Time, Cosmopolitan and Better Homes and Gardens, announced a joint venture on Tuesday to develop new ways of presenting publications digitally to rival Kindle's gray "electronic ink" technique. The publishers' answer to the text-oriented Kindle promises to emphasize visuals, retaining the distinctive look of each publication."
-Dec 8, 2009 AP article by Ryan Nakashima, "5 top publishers plan rival to Kindle format" - http://bit.ly/4zFfgv

(This, or Apple's mythical tablet, are what we need for Shelter's graphics-heavy books.)

Also, see Sports Illustrated's SI Tablet concept video: http://bit.ly/4TJSGf

Mosque Leader Says Somali Pirates Heading for Hell

"The use of drugs such as cannabis and the drinking of alcohol, sex and other obnoxious misconduct are now becoming common within the pirates, causing social problems, said Sheikh Ahmed, a mosque leader…"
-Associated Press article by Mohammed Olad Hussan, S.F. Chronicle Dec 8, 2009

Shelter's New Book on Tiny Houses

Once I got back from Europe and the dust settled, I finally started on our tiny houses book. We've been gathering material on the subject for about a year and I'm astounded by the wealth and richness of material. I thought I'd have to wrestle with myself to get rolling on this project in the early stages, but it's taken on a life of its own from day one. I've never had a book take off like this. I'm having a wickedly good time, getting up early in the mornings to work on it. PLUS I'm running across all kinds of other interesting stuff (see blogs of Nov.-Dec.).
There are a ton of books out there on tiny (or "small") houses and more coming, so why are we doing one? Well, we wrote about building small, simple, non-architect, homes in Shelter, 36 years ago. In fact Bob Easton drew up 5 simple little buildings with these roofs: shed, gable, steep gable, gambrel and circular. We told owner-builders to keep it small, simple, and economical, and to not get trapped in a wishful fantasy (domes, 7-sided, abstract shapes, etc). "Quick to build so you can get on with your life."
Secondly, there's an obvious surge of interest nowadays, necessity being the mother, etc.
Third, I've been photographing small buildings for 40 years now.
Fourth, we're doing one of our signature building books, dense with photos and stories, way different from other books, hoping to publish by November 2010. It's gonna be a good one!

*Click here for gambrel roof page from Shelter (shown above).

Ancient Nez Perce Buckskin Dress

“'Shibui” means the type of beauty that doesn’t need announcement; its quality speaks for itself. It involves the maturity, complexity, history, and patina that only time can bring—like a fine vintage wine. Shibui objects have a history which they convey. They speak of understated elegance, utility (each piece serves an important function), rare beauty, and unobtrusive sophistication.'”
"… an ancient buckskin dress, identified as being Nez Perce, pre-1820. Patched and fringed with pale but not white buckskin, the top is banded simply in black and white stripes, “lazy” stitch which means that a short string of beads is not then tacked down bead by bead, but left to be a little fluid. These dresses are really two deerskins, one as the front and one as the back, pieced at the hem, with the tail (hair on) of the deer folded over at the top under the chin, pinned down with beading. The stripe at the top of the arms alternates black, white and red.

"Plains Indian DNA refers back to the high Mongolian prairies, you know. This dress makes one wonder whether aesthetics might be encoded in DNA."
From Mary Scriver's fine blog: http://prairiemary.blogspot.com/2008/05/art-architecture-spring-summer-2008.html

Electric Tea Kettle

I'm not a fan of cooking with electricity, but this is one electric appliance that we use 3-4 times a day, every day of the year. It heats water to tea or coffee (or hot water bottle) temperature in a flash. Our first one lasted maybe 6 years, and we replaced it. While waiting for the new one, it was a drag to have to wait for the kettle to boil on the gas stove. It's called the Chef's Choice 685 International Deluxe Cordless Electric Teakettle: http://bit.ly/5vtm3U
Another one that gets good reviews is the Breville SK500XL Ikon Cordless 1.7-Liter Stainless-Steel Electric Kettle: http://bit.ly/4xQLHb

House on Bridge

From: http://dornob.com/radical-redesigns-bridge-to-home-building-conversions/
No explanation of where or why…

Treehouse in China by David Greenbverg

David Greenberg is an artist and treehouse designer. This is one of the treehouses he designed in China (it's in our book HomeWork).

This photo, by Pete Nelson, is on the French website: http://www.lesechos.fr/luxe/actu/300355342-cabanes-la-grande-evasion.htm

Fred Astaire Rode a Skateboard at Age 78

Fred Astaire was awarded a life membership in the National Skateboard Society At age seventy-eight, he broke his left wrist while riding his grandson's skateboard. He remarked, "Gene Kelly warned me not to be a damned fool, but I'd seen the things those kids got up to on television doing all sorts of tricks. What a routine I could have worked up for a film sequence if they had existed a few years ago. Anyway I was practicing in my driveway."
-From Wikipedia
Photo from: http://www.dancehelp.com/articles/photos/Tap-photos.aspx

Toyota 4x4 Hi-Ace Vans: "Toughest Vehicle on Planet"

Jonathan Hanson on driving on African Savannah at high speed in Land Rovers.: It was "…like…driving across a plowed field over which concrete had been poured to solidify the ridges."
"At 100 kph we danced over them with actual tire-to-earth contact occurring perhaps 10% of the time. But the most astonishing sights were to occasional overstuffed Toyota Hi-Ace van taxis coming the other way at our speed plus, wheels pistoning up and down at an insane pace and the entire vehicle often sideways in a crazy drift around curves…the humble Hi-Ace has to be the toughest vehicle on the planet."
-From the Overland Journal

Guerilla Knitting in Australia

"Denise Litchfield of Sydney, Australia… (a) global artist…helped cover an old men's restroom with yellow yarn designs, and then shared photos of the display with CNN iReport. She says she loves guerrilla knitting because it's so unique, different and unmasculine.
'It's a response to the growing street art world to make a distinctly feminine statement in urban art in a way that is far less harmful to the surroundings. As in, it does not need solvents or cleansers to remove. It's stitched on, and if you don't like it, you unpick it.'
"Tree trunks, door handles and street signs are fair game. Projects as large as buses and buildings have been undertaken as a response to garden-variety shenanigans. The artists seek to bring their own feminine flair while beautifying their surroundings in a non-damaging way."

From Rick

Interview with Jeff Bezos Re: Kindle

Excerpt from NY Times Magazine interview with Jeff Bezos by Deborah Solomon
Published: December 2, 2009

Of all the books that Amazon sells, what percentage are digital books?

For every 100 copies of a physical book we sell, where we have the Kindle edition, we will sell 48 copies of the Kindle edition. It won’t be too long before we’re selling more electronic books than we are physical books. It’s astonishing.


Road Sign in Ireland

Lesley shot this when we were in Ireland in September.

Weeping Ornamental Cherry Tree

I shot this in our garden about 7:00 this morning. It was cold and misty and the tree was illuminating the garden. (Full moon last night. It's a Mt. Fuji variety weeping cherry tree.

Little House in Berkeley

There are 1000s of tiny houses like this all over America, built before rampant bureaucracy shut down the possibility of building small, inexpensive, practical homes.

Lightning Storm in Baja California

Daniel Amora sent us this photo taken by his brother Cesar with his iPhone, of a chubasco (tropical storm) in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Mystery Write P. D. James on London

From The Private Patient an Adam Dalgliesh mystery by P. D. James, in which she is writing about London:
"The city which lay below was a charnel house built on multi-layered bones centuries older than those which lay in the cities of Hamburg or Dresden. Was this knowledge part of the mystery it held for her, a mystery felt most strongly on a bell-chimed Sunday on her solitary exploration of its hidden alleys and squares? Time had fascinated her from childhood, its apparent power to move at different speeds, the dissolution it wrought on minds and bodies, her sense that each moment, all moments past and those to come, were fused into an illusory present which with every breath became the unalterable, indestructible past. In the city of London these moments were caught and solidified in stone and brick, in churches and monuments and in bridges which spanned the grey-brown ever-flowing Thames…."

Obama: The Good News, by Mark Morford

Obama, the great disappointment? The Miracle President hasn't actually accomplished much? Wrong
Yesterday Mark Morford published a brilliant online column on the great stuff Obama is doing:
"…as I…noted all the changes in a single year, I found myself reenergized, invigorated, slapped awake at the new tone and direction, the sheer scale of all the changes, and how we are no longer the rogue macho cowboy laughingstock jackass of the world.
Sure, there's still a long way to go. Yes, we're still invading Afghanistan. Wall Street is still packed with jackals and demons. DOMA still exists. All is far from perfect. But times have changed indeed. Things are most definitely not what they once were. I can think of no better news to report."
To the editors of the Chronicle: Put this prominently on your op-ed page, (say in place of Debra Saunders one day?). It's a unique, thoughtful, hopeful essay, worthy of real ink, as well as digital.

For Rock 'n Rollers Only

To say that rock and roll changed my life in the 60s-'70s is an understatement. Stones/Beatles/Dylan/etc. Sound familiar? If it does, if you've still got that R&R spirit in your bones, this is for you:
Yesterday I drove over the mountain to visit my mom, and to run with my friends. Sunny afternoon, I put on Last Man Standing by Jerry Lee Lewis and friends. Blue skies with clouds, green trees, shadows on the winding mountain road and listening to killer (sic) rock and roll…I'm embarassed it was so much fun. Yes I cranked up the volume. I was making my own movie. Boy, so much good stuff! BB King, Merle Haggard, Kid Rock, Robbie R., Mick & Keith & Ron, Springsteen, Fogerty, George Young, Buddy Guy…does this tell you anything? Jerry's voice is strong & clear, his piano sparkling, and he's obviously a powerful presence for all these musicians, many of whom sing backup harmonies. Blues, country, honky-tonk, rock 'n roll, it's a masterpiece. Check out the previews: http://bit.ly/6GgCnM

Still Love Newspapers? Get Dave Eggars' Panorama Edition

I have always loved newspapers and so it pains me to see my hometown San Francisco Chronicle struggling, like a ship without a captain. They've reduced the page size, are printing on glossy stock (big deal!), they've consigned their brilliant columnist Mark Morford to their website (here), they have no Voice.
However, here's one thing they're doing right: partnering with Dave Eggars (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), a newspaper lover, who is publishing (via his McSweeney's publishing house):
"• A 120-page broadsheet, including a 48-page news section, 24 pages of arts, 16 pages of sports (an 8-page sports section and an 8-page special World Series section featuring Stephen King), 16 pages of comics, and a 16-page food section
• A 112-page magazine
• A 96-page books section
• Pull-out posters

A bunch of writers and artists "…use their creativity to unleash the full potential of a daily newspaper? The result is San Francisco Panorama, a unique publication filled with breathtakingly innovative features and sections."

You can order a copy ($16) from McSweeney's.

Back to the land with Maria Kalman

"And the Pursuit of Happiness—Back to the Land" is a wonderful hand-lettered article by prolific artist Maria Kalman: in the NY Times. Farmers, fast food, healthy food, edible schoolyards. Sent us by Leo Hetzel. Photo is of farmer Mickey Murch's rolling food van. He drives it into the small town where he lives to sell fresh bread and other food. http://bit.ly/5LrkQj

Maria Kalman's website: http://www.mairakalman.com/

Bell Tower Near Church in El Transito, Nicaragua

By photographer Taeke Henstra

Fred Astaire Rode Skateboard at Age 78

Lew sent me this on Fred Astaire:
"Astaire was awarded a life membership in the National Skateboard Society At age seventy-eight, he broke his left wrist while riding his grandson's skateboard. He remarked 'Gene Kelly warned me not to be a damned fool, but I'd seen the things those kids got up to on television doing all sorts of tricks. What a routine I could have worked up for a film sequence if they had existed a few years ago. Anyway I was practicing in my driveway.'"
-From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Astaire

Photo from: http://www.dancehelp.com/articles/photos/Tap-photos.aspx

Bamboo Scaffolding on Hong Kong Skyscrapers


Shipping Container Converted to Bar-B-Q Joint, Nairobi

"Spotted in Nairobi, January 2008 at Lagoon, a bar/nyama choma (roast meat) joint."

Mirrored Treehouse in Sweden

"Swedish firm Tham & Videgard Hansson Arkitekter, have cleverly used mirrored panels to create an almost invisible treehouse “hotel.” Although the square footage hasn’t been revealed, the “hotel” unit boasts a kitchen, sleeping area, living area, and for those not afraid of heights, a terrace."