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Just cain't do it like I did it…

My training for the Dipsea race in June got rudely interrupted when I stumbled and injured some hamstring muscles out on the trail last Saturday. 6 weeks until the race and now I'm waiting and watching (feeling) for muscles to heal so I can get back to training before it's too late.  For competitive runners,  'twas ever thus…
Coincidentally Lesley gave me a CD yesterday of fiddler Johnny Kimble (recently interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR) and one of the songs has these witty lyrics:

What do you do
when you just cain't do
what you did
when you did
what you did?

When you opened your eyes
and finally realized
you ain't no longer a kid.


Stewart Brand on Nils Gilman and "Deviant Globalization"

From Stewart Brand, http://longnow.org/:
"Growing twice as fast as the global legitimate economy is the global hidden economy of trade in drugs, weapons, laundered money, sex workers, illegal immigrants, hostages, human organs, pirated intellectual property, looted archeological artifacts, stolen art, endangered species, illegal waste, and massively sophisticated computer hacking. In some parts of the world, with the decline of state sovereignty and growth of grassroots communication technology, outlaw organizations are taking over statelike duties.
Historian Nils Gilman, a consultant at Global Business Network/Monitor, is co-author of a forthcoming book on the subject.
(Talk next week:) 'Deviant Globalization,' Nils Gilman, Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, 7pm, Monday, May 3."

Phoebe Babo on the piano/Dancing in a wheelchair

A few weeks ago I stopped by my mom's rest home. About 15 elderly ladies were sitting around listening to another elderly lady play the piano. She was terrific. Five Foot two, Ain't She Sweet, Bye-bye Blues — the '20s and '30s songs we used to play in high school, accompanied by ukulele and washtub bass.
I called Phoebe and asked her if she'd be interested in having me and my box bass and my brother Bob and his banjo sit in with her. Sure, she said. Well, yesterday Bob and I showed up and I gotta say we clicked. Everybody was happy. My mom was moving her hands and feet in rhythm to the music. One of the ladies, Jane, knows the words to just about every song, and she sang along with me. I ended up with a blister on my string-plucking finger. Towards the end of the session, Bob got his banjo going, and the joint was rockin'. Two of the caregivers were dancing. At the end of the song, Phoebe said, "One more time, boys!" It was so much fun!
Phoebe is 91 years old, born in 1918. She has 18 gigs a month at a rest home-type places, and since she no longer drives, she takes whistle-stop wheels buses to get around the county. We're going to play with her again in a couple of weeks and we'll shoot a video.
Five foot two,
eyes of blue,
but oh what those 5 foot can do,
has anybody seen my gal?

Moon Raindrops Waves Low Tide Rocks Pelicans Buzzards Seals Cormorants This Morning

Today's my birthday, also a full moon (whoo-whoo!). I was going to skate on the mountain at sunrise, but it was cloudy, so I decided to go to a rocky grotto on a nearby beach. I got up at 4:15, made my way down the "not-for-the-faint-hearted" trail, real steep in spots, It'd been raining and I soon learned that Vibram soles are slippery on wet rocks. Got down to the grotto as the full moon was going down on the western horizon. Rain drops falling. A swell had come up overnight and the waves were powerful and crashing. Vortex of energy! I hung out for maybe 20 minutes, then started back up the cliff. Partway up, I looked down at the beach in time to see a big flock of pelicans fly inches above a breaking wave. They use the wave's updraft and hardly flap their wings. From my vantage point I could see them doing this beautiful dance, skimming above one wave, then when it broke, switching to a new, yet unbroken wave.

This was on the way home, a few hours ago. Low tide in the lagoon.

Birthday frog

Joanne Laird sent me this photo she took of a tree frog in British Columbia for a birthday present (today/ age 75; how can it be?)

Free Sears tool catalog

Per a posting today from Cooltools, you can get a Sears tool catalog for free:

"On a recent trip to Sears, I was happily surprised to see a thick catalog near the checkout. I hadn't realized the Sears Tool Catalog is still in print, still available for free, and just about as big as the old Radio Shack catalogs I used to get.
It’s not just Craftsman tools in here. They have all of your professional brands inside, and some wicked tools you can’t find at a brick-and-mortar Sears. Woodworking tools are well-represented. Mechanics tools are, too, as you’d expect, including SK tools and some small specialty brands; also shop equipment, even some boots and clothing. Sears has also recently made major upgrades to what it's calling its interactive catalog.
-- Christopher Wanko"

Garden tool carrier

Yesterday I made this out of cedar shakes left over from roof job. Based on photo in garden catalog.

Homestead in the Spring

Both tower in background and pumphouse on right have new roofs with shakes split by Bruno Atkey from British Columbia. Billy Cummings did the tower shakes solo, since I'd had a carpal tunnel operation. That's the production studio on the left.

Classic Harley police motorcycle in Novato

Parked outside Buck's Saw Service on Grant Ave. last Saturday. This thing was lovingly maintained.

Flocks of birds have leaders, followers

I thought this comment from Steve Lamm on my posting of yesterday (4/20/10) was interesting enough to bring up front. It's feedback on my observations of birds flying in unison. Here's an excerpt from an NPR program by Nell Greenfield Boyce:
"For any given pair of birds, Biro says, "you can accurately work out which of them is the leader and which one of them is the follower."
Some birds had more followers than others. This demonstrates a hierarchy of influence within the flock. "You can actually rank birds in terms of the influence that they have on others within the group," Biro says. "Basically every individual gets a kind of a vote in what the flock does, but the weight of your vote depends on your rank, your position in the hierarchy."
And it did turn out that highly influential birds tended to fly out in front, according to a report on the study in the journal Nature.…"
Photo of common terns in flight by Max Skwarna: http://is.gd/bCqT9
Look at those aerodynamics!

Running, paddling…

I'm back in a running groove for the first time in 8 or so years. It's taken about 5 months, 3 times a week, to slowly get the machinery working and circuits and plumbing opened up. I can cruise, I can run 8-9 miles, and the mountain has never been more beautiful than right now. My tempestuous affair with running is on an upswing. It's good to be on the trails again.
Yesterday I took my Joe Bark racing paddleboard out in the lagoon. At certain tides, there is a winding 1- or 2-mile long channel that I paddle through. It's 20-30 feet wide, mud bottom, pickleweed growing on mudflats, birds abundant. It was a quiet day, overcsst, kind of warm, and the water was glassy like a mirror, but with bits of foam from the incoming tide. I'd paddle hard for a while, and there'd be a spray about a foot long on either side of the nose, like a slow speedboat. This thing skims across the water. I crept up on a beautiful egret. A few days before I'd been watching a flock of terns on a mudflat when two of them took off and flew together in perfect unison, diving, climbing, soaring, an aerial dance, the pair joyous with synchronization…how do they know to both take a right turn at exactly the same moment? In the book Star Maker, Olaf Stapledon described starlings or some such birds in a huge flock, and how they all turned at the same time as if the group were a collective intelligence…
Above photo, taken 10 minutes ago, of divider strip on Columbus Street, outside Cafe Roma, North Beach, San Francisco

Check out Bill and Athena Steen's blog!

This is fantastic!  Photos and stories. Such a rich collection, it was hard to not put up a dozen photos. Trust me. Check it out:

Go to the post page…

On a side street off the main drag in Novato, California (on a rainy Saturday). A brass plaque on the building says:
Novato's first railroad station
Constructed in 1875. Moved here from original site and restored to depict first structure relating to railroad transportation linking Marin and Northern counties Dedicated April 22, 1989

The curved roof braces are a nice touch.

Wild food on homestead, organized crime in Catholic church

Wild food last week: puffball mushroom sauteed with roadkill venison, and miner's lettuce in the salad. Today (Sunday) was a drop-dead gorgeous California blue-sky day. We were here totally alone, no one came by, the office closed, not even a phone call. Lesley worked in the garden all day. I started getting the chicken coop ready for the 30 baby chicks that will arrive from Murray McMurray in the mail on May 10th (all bantams -- Auracanas and Gold and Silver Sebrings). I worked on a bunch of things in my shop: fixing the radial arm saw bench, sorting out the lumber piles, getting ready to go eeling tomorrow.  

Last week Lesley engineered anther instant gopher-proof raised planting bed. So simple. Lay out 1/4" mesh on ground, stack two layers of concrete blcoks on mesh, fill with soil. Fill blocks also, inside of which can be grown strawberries, parsley. We've got our 1/2-acre homestead functioning pretty well; it's only taken us 35 years.
Jesse Ventura was a guest on the Bill Maher show on Friday. He said the Catholic church should be arraigned in the US, just the same as the Mafia, for organized crime. They have been responsible for felonies (molestation) and have not only covered them up, but kept the offending criminals in their organization. By the way, why should churches get a tax exemption? It was a great episode, the 3 guests were all on the same page. There was no Republican asshole to "balance" things out.
Mt.Tamalpais is stylin' right now. The creeks are full and rushing, wildflowers are out, the hills are green, the plants are happy with the rains, and there's even more rain predicted in the next few days. With the lakes full and the creeks bursting with life, I feel rich. Like money in the bank. No, better.

A few random factoids about the future of publishing

In the world I grew up in (grad. high school 52, college 57), communication was by phone and letter. I was comfortable with that. It never occurred to me it would change. When the fax machine came along, I was stunned. How could text and even drawings be sent over a phone line? Well, look where we're at now. I don't remember when I last wrote a (non e-mail) letter.

And in publishing books, we used to prepare "mechanicals" (text and graphics) — large paper sheets and take them into the printers to be photographed for film, which was used to prepare aluminum plates for the press. Then the Macintosh came along, and all that changed. We adapted. In fact, the film for our 1973 book Shelter is now being scanned and converted to digital files, since printing plants are ceasing film-based printing.
Now, we're apparently headed for a sea of change in the publishing industry. I haven't studied it extensively, since I barely have enough time to work on book projects as is, but I'm keenly interested in what's now going on out in the publishosphere..
For some reason, I feel a bit like the South Pacific natives in the last scene of Mondo Cane (1962 documentary) who thought that cargo planes were gods (I refer to the clueless, not reverential aspect of this scenario).
Our books are distributed by Publishers Group West, who in turn are owned by Perseus Books Group. Perseus has just set up a facility called Constellation to assist their client/publishers in navigating the digital world ("towards a digital strategy"). I went to a Constellation seminar in Berkeley a few days ago, and here are a few random facts I picked up:
-If you believe the media, the publishing world is in a state of turmoil. "Desperate," "losing control," "downward trend," "bleak future…" Yeah, well maybe — maybe — things aren't quite so desperate. Our bookstore sales have actually gone up this year. Books ain't dead. "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." -Mark Twain
-There were 140,000 self published titles in 2009. This is incredible. Power to the individual.
-There are way more e-book devices than I realized. At Book Expo America in New York in May, Perseus will have 18 devices on display. Different features, different formats, different requirements. It's dizzying. The iPad has got competition.
-We have some out-of-print books that we are now resuscitating with Print-on-demand and short run printing. Like Mrs. Restino's Country Kitchen, our 1996 book about cooking from your garden, which was ahead of its time, or our 1983 book Aerobic Tennis, about using tennis to get in shape. Some of our old books are seeing the light of day once again.
-Right now, e-book sales are handled by Amazon, Sony, eBrary, Overdrive, e-books.com, Follet, Ingram e-books, BN e-books, and Kobo (Shortliners). Phew!
-I've been reading the New York Times on the web about every day. The other day when I went to Berkeley, I picked up a copy of the paper, and boy, what a difference!
We'll keep publishing "hard copy" books forever. We're also starting work on converting some of our books to e-books.
It's an exciting time for communicators.

Tuesday Morning in Berkeley

In the mid-'70s ("The '60s happened in the '70s," right?), Lesley and I tried to make a go of it producing food for ourselves and to sell. I was building our house. Had no plans to publish more books (after Shelter). Lesley tended a big garden. At one time we had 50 chickens, 5 beehives, and 3-4 goats (on less than ½-acre). Our friends were into the same things. Neighbors Bob and Sabena had a Jersey cow, pigs, a few sheep, ducks, chickens, and a huge garden, about one acre. Mike and I tried some small-scale farming. Mike and I both learned a lot from Arnold Brost, an old German who had grown up in Bessarabia (Romania) on a self-sufficient farm. Tending bees, making wine, smoking hams, making sourdough yeast…

Turns out producing organic food on our small scale in those days just didn't pay. We sold fertile organic eggs for $1 a dozen, a quart of organic raw goat's milk for $1, and honey for $1 a pound. We didn't end up being farmers, but we learned a lot of food skills that still serve us well. Grinding grain (wheat millet, oats, rice) just before using; making cheese; gathering wild foods; all the myriad things Lesley's learned to cook, from fresh-baked bread to pizza to sushi to a —ahem!— chocolate soufflé.

I discovered a homemade book called Stretching in 1979, used it to cure a bad back, and ended up publishing it in 1980, and voilá, I was no longer carpenter/farmer, but publisher. That book changed my life.

Note from todays NY Times:
-Highly efficient waste-to-energy plants in Denmark burn garbage to produce electricity with minimal pollution. U.S. of course drags heels on this technology.
-Reading the hard version of the NY Times is such a treat compared to the dumbed-down San Francisco Chronicle.
-Andrew Russ Sorkin says the bailouts might just be working.
-Pfizer reveals it's been making payments to doctors as consultants or speakers. Why am I not surprised?
-Lala.com is a great music site. Can play any song, many albums free just once.

Sun's shining, I'm off on my city rounds.

Shelter's Tiny House book going into Phase 2…

I got the idea to do a book on tiny houses about a year ago. After all, the main theme of our 1973 book Shelter was the small house. Instead of borrowing money from a bank to buy an existing house, you'd do it yourself. We showed designs, with drawings by Bob Easton, of five small houses, each with a different roof shape.

This idea has really taken off in the last few years. There's a ton of material out there on tiny houses. So I began exploring the web and copying down URLs of websites with good material. I did this on and off for about a year, while we finished up other projects.

In December, 2009, I started a review of all these websites and all this material. Which I've just finished. I have about 100 folders assembled here: tiny houses on land, on wheels, on the water; cabins, shacks, sheds; saunas, studios, greenhouses, chicken coops;. Small living — urban or country. A ton of wonderful material.

Next week I'll start contacting these people. I'll be seeking permission to use photos and stories. We can't pay much, if anything for photos, since our books have 1000-1200 photos each. And, as is usual, I have no idea what the book will be like. My method is to start assembling pages and let the book take on its own form. So here goes, our first major building book since Builders of the Pacific Coast.

Above: my photo of cabin by Vin Gorman (one of the featured builders in the above book).

Old Lincoln Continental

Saw this soulful vehicle in San Rafael yesterday. Lew says it's probably a painter's vehicle.

Crispy Hippie revealed

In December I mentioned that the cafe/coffee roastery at Small World Coffee in Princeton, NJ, did a name and logo for a new blend based on my surfing and skateboarding and I guess, long hair — calling it the Crispy Hippie roast. To tell the truth, I've never thought of myself as a hippie, although I guess I am compared to all my friends from high school and college who didn't smoke dope, get immersed in rock and roll, and drop out (back in '65). "I'm proud to be a hippie from Olema…" Small World owner Jessica Durrie just sent me this t-shirt.

Barnwood available free in Iowa

Doug Coppinger wrote us recently, saying that the barn buildings on his family farm in Central Iowa are going to be torn down and he'd like to find someone who can use the wood. Phone: 425-398-3843

Reader feedback on Builders of the Pacific Coast

Lew just discovered an interesting website called Goodreads, with reader book ratings and reviews; it's tied in to Facebook. For one thing, it's a way to cross-check Amazon customer reviews. Here's a comment on our last major building book, Builders of the Pacific Coast:

"In a time when more people are thinking "green" and "sustainable," this book is even more fascinating. "Sustainable" is not a slick, well-marketed, over-packaged solution you can buy at a local big box store and get delivered - it is noticing and respecting the woodgrain, the type of stone, and the stories of the place. There is so much room for quiet reflection in this book, it took much longer to read it than I expected from a large format, photo-heavy "coffee table" book."

I looked up The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and there were 28,000 reader ratings.

Purple house in San Francisco

I wouldn't think that 2 shades of purple and orange-ish yellow would be a good color combo, but they are.

Winter springs back

No sooner do I exult about Spring and sunshine and blue skies and green grass than Winter kicks back in. Tuesday night Eric and I headed south, running along the coast from Muir Beach, up trails leading to ocean lookout spots. We could see bands of rain out on the horizon, moving in from the ocean. It started drizzling and suddenly got a lot colder and just as we got to the top (maybe 1000 ft. above the ocean) and started heading back, it started hailing. No trees for shelter. So here we are running down a fire road, high winds, getting pelted by hail, freezing water running down our legs into shoes…It may sound like I'm complaining here, but in reality, the discomfort was worth it when we got into dry clothes and in to the pub, and beer and hot shepherd's pie. It was an adventure! "If it doesn't kill you, it's good for you," invariably true.

The rain (1" this week) and new storms next week are good. Our local lakes are full, but Lake Shasta can use as much rainfall as it can get.

Then yesterday I ran down to the beach and found a bunch of new graffiti. I love this art form.