SCSWi 2013 day 2

A frustrating day. The bottom line: choices.

Three sessions in a row were full when I got to them. Lines around corners (plural!) for the first meant I got to go to a session for myself, not for work. A win, I’d say. Then the next one filled up and I saw the last question. At least, I told myself, I could read the book that formed the session’s basis.

Next timeframe was Al Gore. Love him or laugh at him, the dude was a VP. That’s pretty huge! I wanted to see him, but the lines for even the simulcast were long and moved like a flash flood. I couldn’t take it. I’m not panicky, but it was too much for me at that moment. I called it a shutout and went once more to a secondary session for work, and again was shut out. This time I was the third or fourth person from getting in and bam. No entry.

Deep breath.

I went outside and guess what! Free Popsicles. Oh, the guy in front of me got the last one. I am not making this up.

However, as I walked sadly away, beaten by even healthy sugar-free Popsicles, I heard someone call out to me. The Popsicle guy had restocked, found me in the crowd (I was the tall one shouting at the sky) and asked if I wanted a Popsicle. Hell yes I did!! Day turned around. Big smiles.

Finally, I had a choice for my final session: hacking for sustainability (personal interest) or meditation (personal need)? I went with the meditation.

It didn’t help my day. I didn’t get an excited “this felt right!” Moment. But I did realize finally, after talking to an acquaintance I bumped into there, that this conference is all about choices. He’s right. I have to choose which are the big, defining sessions I MUST go to, and choose to skip some sessions to wait in line for the biggie. Hard choices, and they probably won’t give me the “I made a good one!” feeling. I’ll probably go away wondering what the other panels were about and second guessing my choices.

So day 3 and I’m on a bus at 8:20 on a Sunday, but my body thinks it’s 7:20 from the time change. I’m going to make my first panel, and I even went without coffee to make it. And I’m going to get my picture with grumpy cat, dammit.


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SXSWi 2013, day 1

Wow. So overwhelmed. Today started with just a few gentle intros and a few sessions. It still blew my mind.

Keynote: makerbot makes anything and now you can, too.

Next session: we’re not just rebuilding homes after disasters, we’re teaching local architects auto CAD so they can get hired by the world disaster orgs to rebuild their own homes, and we’re not just building and leaving, but asking first what the locals want, helping then build that, and then staying on and transitioning our not-for-profit there to a for-profit they run and own. WHAT??

Final session: thinking exponentially. Find any Jason Silva video on YouTube. Prepare to need a nap.

After all that, I felt so tiny, so useless just making my living day by day. So what next?

Well, a lot of thinking, that’s what.

Day 1′s theme: there is so much more I could be doing. Oh, and Sxsw is really becoming TED. Or vice versa.

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Still writing 2012 on your checks? Lucky bastard.

Yeahhhhh, it’s 2013 and I haven’t even written a single blog post yet. (Oh wait. There’s one! I just hadn’t published for some reason, and evidently I was still getting over pneumonia. I think I get a bye on forgetting it.) So those correctly-dated checks are just gonna have to wait.

What am I up to now? Here’s my sanity check:

Obviously, work. And a weekend thing I can’t shirk: training my baby naturalists to become masters. So that’s pretty much Monday through Saturday, 9-5. So for the other day of the week and hours I’m not sleeping:

Around the house:

  • Still gotta get those kitchen lights working again. It’s been probably 4 or 5 months now. Ouch.
  • Gotta fix the leaks in the kitchen and bathroom faucets. Wow, and I’m a greenie??
  • Finding a contractor to replace my horrible peach tiles, horrible cold tub, and nasty mildewy grout with something amazing. Something airy. Something I won’t have to scrub.

Maybe something like this, with its delightful steamy goodness:

Or maybe, even more dreamily, it opens to the big wide world:

Screen Shot 2013-09-07 at 3.34.46 PM

From tumblr with no real credit , but from my own searches it might be originally from

But most likely, I’ll just end up with a big shower, no tub, and a better vent fan. Oh, and a fixed tub faucet leak. And I’m ok with that. Mostly.

Ok, ok. Since this post is really just for my own mental organization (is there ever another reason for a blog post?), what do I really want out of the bathroom upgrade?

  1. The leak fixed. That’s where it all started.
  2. The tiles (and their mildew and all the scrubbing and gross factor) gone.
  3. No more shower curtain (and… its mildew. Theme much? Also getting rid of the shower curtain screech when it’s moved aside. Awakens folks in both adjacent bedrooms and is a fun party trick!)
  4. More light.
  5. Better steam evacuation (read: fix/replace vent fan).
  6. Better health. I visited a spa (oh wow) and they had eucalyptus steam! Then I thought, dang, could I have a steam room, too? Having just got over pneumonia, this seemed like an amazing and resouding YES. Having option 6 requires option 5.
  7. Update room for better resale (eventually) and better enjoyment (now).
  8. More room in the event one occupant is on the toilet and the other in the shower. Hey, it happens. And when it does, the shower person is quite the captive.

Around the yard, I’m hoping to get some of these projects banged out (ha. Right). Until that illustrious day, this weekend I put in spinach, chia, cuke, black-eyed, okra, and kale seeds.

Someday, I’ll pull up my perfectly good patio (the one that burns my feet in the summer) and put down some wood slices, and that patio will shoot off onto a path, leading to my backyard oasis, spiraling to a conclusion thus:

Oh, and that patio? It’s covered with a pergola, luscious hanging plants, and a serene sense of give-a-fuck:—mediterranean-patio-los-angeles

And I’ll put uprights around my driveway, so I can grow vines (gourds!) over my driveway and make it less burny through the summer. It’ll also mean 100% less basketball. We’re currently at 1% basketball, so it’s not a huge loss:

Pinned Image

From—could you guess?— Man, they’ve got cool stuff.

And when those gourds aren’t growing, how about a bottle reuse project cum artwork, yathus:

If I’m lucky, I’ll make it to my lowball goal: a DIY rain barrel. This is the wah-wah of projects:

And as for health, I’m hoping to train for a triathlon. Yes, I realize that “hoping to train” for something is a complete fail.gif, but I have at worst gone to the gym one time out of once this week. Tomorrow, that number either stays at 100% or drops to 50%. I read this article ( and am reading the 4-hour body (with a grain of salt, per the author’s own instruction), and I’m still doing yoga and still trying to get up earlier each day for more health, yoga, well being, and huh, at some point I should look into these “meal” things people are all talking about. In the meantime, Pinterest keeps me and my hopes-to-plan-to-do self in a constant state of denial and sweet oblivion.

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So what’ve you been up to?

Oh, nothing. Just overcoming the challenges of my mother’s house fire, traveling, organizing a 10-week class for 32 naturalists, and having pneumonia. No biggie.

Man am I glad THAT is all done. Well, except I’m still getting over pn, still traveling next week if I’m well enough, still getting over the fire, and the classes don’t begin until this weekend. But at least I’m nearly over the pn.

In fact, I got a bomb juicer and have been concocting some “tired if being sick” bombs to lay on my bod. Oh, did I mention? Training for a tri and a 4 month hike this year, too. So first things first: get well!

Yesterday’s drink had broccoli, spinach, a lime, two oranges, two clementines, half a sweet potato, an apple, a bit of ginger, and one single carrot with its greens. It mainly tasted like lime.


Today’s drink had a tiny beet, half a head of cabbage, spinach, one lime, three clementines, half a sweet potato, one orange, and a bunch of carrots with their tops. It tastes like an earthy lime.


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Solar Powered Prisons Save Money

via Solar Powered Prisons Save Taxpayers Money | Sustainablog.

Image from Sustainablog

Yes, please. If we can’t switch from dirty fuels *cough*fossil fuels*cough* because it’s a better and cleaner way to do things, and because building new infrastructure actually creates news jobs (oh, don’t even get me started on restoring all those miles and miles of railroad lines that exist just about everywhere and would be an excellent way for us to move around the country), then maybe we can at least switch because it saves money.

Fine. I’m fine with that. And thank you, Charlotte Airport, for starting to worm compost and reporting the 1.2 million dollars you invested in, yes, worms will pay for itself in five years

Dudes. You can’t even get a Prius to pay for its own 30k over its lifetime. You can’t get a solar system at your house to pay for itself in five years, although perhaps in my (burning) climate, maybe it would pay for itself over its own lifetime.

But dudes. Dudes. Money talks. Great, let’s listen, then, since we’ve demonstrated over and over how it’s far more important than people. Finally, it’s a winner.

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Craft Hope’s softie project for kids

Hello world and fellow geekcrafters! Would anyone else like to join in Craft Hope’s “project 19″, softies for Hurricane Sandy kids?

Since the deadline is January 10, I figure maybe I can whip up a few murlocs. The project doesn’t specify toys-only, and I think a fun monster hat is both useful and … um, fun.

Heck, maybe this will finally spur me to write and post that murloc hat pattern. Yikes, that’s been too long!

via Project 19 :: Dolls, Animals, and Monsters. Oh My!.

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How to help someone who’s lost everything

This is a follow-up to my previous post from the perspective of the one who has lost a home and all possessions. I know many people right now are facing life without a home, without possessions, without mementos and precious heirlooms, without even a birth certificate anymore.

Here are a few tips on how to help these people facing the biggest life change anyone’s ever likely to face. Honestly. It was easier to put my father to rest than to figure out what to do after my mother lost her home.

Note: I get maybe a bit snarky toward the end when I talk about what not to do. Keep in mind this was an emotional deal for me, too, and cut me a tiny bit of slack if you can. I’m really not being ungrateful, and I’m just trying to help people understand maybe what it’s like to be on the receiving end.

For everyone:

The folks at the epicenter are not equipped at that moment to answer detailed questions, and anyway emergency officials have asked them everything—even horrible questions to find out if the person was responsible for her own world’s destruction. It’s awful. Please don’t add to that maelstrom of questions.

I know you want to help. If you aren’t in a place financially or geographically to spare a dollar or a pair of jeans, you can:

  • make phone calls to local aid groups
  • do some legwork for the victim. They’ll need paperwork re-issued (deeds, birth certificates, passports, titles, social security cards), so maybe you can start finding out at the library where they’ll need to start out
  • you can help start a relief fund for the victim or help set up a PayPal account for the same (this one gave me fits for two days). Spread the word liberally.
  • you can help get the word out that this person could use a hand. Maybe you’ll find someone who is in the position to give something to the victim.

For local folks:


This sweet note made it clear to use only what my family needed. They really REALLY appreciated that.

If the victims are still staring at the wreckage of their home, or sitting motionless on the cot at the shelter, get a pack of socks, underwear, and t-shirts for the person (or family). Put it into a simple bag for them with a bit of room to spare. My brother received a duffle bag with those things inside (from someone afar, actually!), with the note you see here. It was the best.

If there are children, a small stuffed animal may offer amazing comfort to them. (This is out of my experience, though, so most of my tips are applicable only to adult victims.) A bottle of water and a piece of fruit or can also be nice. My mom was really happy to have pajamas to sleep in that night, and a pillow like she lost. It’s the little things.

Red Cross should already be there (the fire dept is supposed to call them), but in our case, the FD had a few unusual things going on (running out of water, for one), so if RC doesn’t show up soon, call em up. It won’t hurt if you end up calling them and they already know. They’ll deal.

Offer your phone for the victims or someone close to them to use to call family or the insurance company.

If there are pets involved, find out their names and go looking for them around the neighborhood. Seriously, you’re helping more by getting out of the immediate area. And what an amazing turnaround for my mom when she found one of her cats.

Red Cross should get them a place for a day or two to stay. Try to help find or even negotiate a middle-term housing situation for them. In our case, that is a travel trailer. In others cases it might be an apartment or other rental, housesitting (yes, really), or the ol’ spare bedroom.


If this was just wear, of course it’d be fine. But it’s not. That brown stuff is grime. Not stains: dirt and grime that rubs off when you get near it. Don’t do this.

Don’t take it personally if they don’t stay in the place you find for them. Just giving them an option is a huge relief for them. Mostly. Don’t try to force them into the “easiest” option or the closest option. Don’t put them into a place you wouldn’t want to spend the night, yourself.

Which brings me to this tip: OMG, don’t give them anything you wouldn’t want to receive yourself. They don’t have anything, sure, and they’re grateful, but they still have dignity. Don’t give them rags to wear. Don’t give them the couch from the porch, the rugs the cats peed on, or a place to stay that would make a crackhead uncomfortable. Seriously. My mom was gracious and we, her family, tried to be, too. We all love second-hand and thrift stores, but there’s no way some of these items would’ve made the cut at Goodwill. Again, just because they’ve lost everything doesn’t mean they’ll take anything. Imagine staring at strange walls and facing the thought of sleeping on questionable, stained sheets, and eating expired food. Imagine if that’s what your new reality becomes.


Remember that time three years before your house burned down? Yeah, even then this pudding was expired. But those were good times, huh?

Don’t make this the moment you take out the trash. And for the love of Pete, don’t donate expired food. Ever.


Pee stains, anyone?

Mom was grateful for the clothing she got from neighbors and friends: the clothing that was folded and stacked on her car’s hood as it sat on the road; the clothing that was hung in the closet of the room my friends put together for her, and hung up or folded in the donation center the neighbors put together. The clothes in the trash bag? Not as excited to pick through and find the best-of items so clearly stamped as throw-away. And seriously, she loves Goodwill. It wasn’t a matter of “good enough” or “nice enough.” It was all about just taking a few moments to show that the items you are giving them were good enough to take a moment to fold, stack, or anything other than “unceremoniously dump”.

For out-of-towners:

My brother—also displaced by the fire—got an overnight package in the mail with some clothes and a duffle bag, as I mentioned. This was so awesome and discreet. He appreciated the gesture and its method. Better still (the note is one of the photos above), the sender acknowledged that my brother might not want or need some of the things in the bag. They gave him the sensitive “out” to use only what he could or would use. I don’t know who those friends of his were, but THANK YOU, friends. You have no idea what a relief that was for him to know it was ok.

Setting up and arranging the PayPal thing, and spreading the word on contributing to it, is a big help. Folks on both coasts are eager to contribute, which is amazing, as are folks in between and in other countries. It’s just amazing. One friend from the past is arranging her group of crafters to donate just $5 each to the fund. It’s just the sweetest thing.

My mom has no idea what she’ll do next, so item donations aren’t an easy possibility. Does she need a new table or bed? She didn’t have a place to put it, and ended up finding a “home” that came with built in beds and tables. Does she need a coat for winter? In Texas, that’s a question for next-month mom. She’s not in contact with today-mom. They’re not on speaking terms just yet.

Sorry, out-of-towners. There’s less that you can do, but not nothing. Even if you can’t do financial or physical contributions, I hope the list of “legwork” items (above) that you can do from afar can help you feel involved.

My aunts and uncles were able to travel into town to help out for a few days, and it really was great to have them near. My brother and I were able to return to work more quickly than without them, and having my mom’s “peers” around was much better than her feeling like her children were taking care of her.

Today she’s watching the bulldozers remove the wreckage of her hand-built home. Today I’m back at work, but before I could dive into writing as part of my job, I had to get this writing out of the wreckage of my own thoughts. I hope you’ll forgive its state, and I do sincerely hope it helps you—anyone and everyone—to understand how to help.


It’s not you, it’s me: your perineal cleanser might be a kingly gift, but if the recipient doesn’t need a half-used bottle of it, maybe don’t take that the wrong way.

One final thought: don’t take it personally if your gift or suggestion if not accepted. I am finding it a good change of events to have mom forming her own opinions again. The first few days she was unable to make decisions at all, ate when she was told, went where we pointed, and in all ways was mastered by the situation. Today she is mastering it, and the help she still needs is ever more difficult for her to accept. I hope I keep that in perspective and understand that she’s finding what she most lost: her fierce independence.

Thank you, one and all, for helping her get there again. But maybe not so much thanks for the expired pudding.

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