Feb 25, 2009

Round 1 a Success for the Library House

We went to court this morning to defend our possession of the Library House. The outcome was positive overall, extending our possession until March 25th at least, which is when we'll return to court. We've had great council and lots of solidarity.

So again, Eco Fair at the Library House on Saturday! Including a Really Really Free Market.

Cafe Marie tonight (and every Wednesday), with films on the environmental issues associated with the G20 meeting that will take place in London on April 2nd.

Knitting on Sunday, March 1st.

Open day on Sunday, March 8th. Gardening meeting at noon. Tea at 5pm.

Coming soon: Weekly Theatre of the Oppressed workshops

Feb 23, 2009

Really Really Free Market Saturday at The Library House!

If you're in London this Saturday, come down to the Library House for the eco-fair, and most especially for the Really Really Free Market.

London has a vibrant free stuff/sharing culture with free shops and free cycle and interesting 'swapshops', etc. The Really Really Free Market offers a gift economy for all. We all have something to give. You can give or take an object like clothing, books, tupperware, globes, laundry baskets, etc. I need a bedside lamp so ... you know.... Or you can give a song, a skillshare, a haircut, a poem, a reading from your favorite book.

We all have something to give.

I'm excited about bringing this project to London for so many reasons. I haven't been to RRFM since July, when I took all of my excess stuff to Dolores Park in prepartion for my departure from San Francisco. After a couple of years of attending RRFM each month, it was a nice way to leave my city.

And not to get heavy on you, but RRFM was an important part of my community in SF. One of my friends, and a key organizer of RRFM, Kirsten Brydum, was killed in September in New Orleans. As our community in SF attempts to heal and honor Kirsten's dedication to the gift economy, SF RRFM has grown. This month there were THREE RRFM events, including an expansion down into the Bayview. Actually, one of those events will take place this Saturday. So if you're in SF, head over to 2187 El Balazo/Sub Mission (18th and Mission street) between 1-5pm. Rock on, SF. I miss you.

Having RRFM in London is one way I can facillitate my own healing and ensure that I'm also contributing to our mutual aims of spreading alternative economies and ways of associating.

The eco-fair will be multifaceted as well. There will be free vegan food from Food Not Bombs and Reclaim Your Food. Expect art and a seed swap (spring is coming!). And there will be a bike power generation workshop from 3-7pm.

So come on down to the Library House. And if you have a spare bedside lamp...

The pics below are from RRFM in Dec 07 at ArtSF. Jeremy Dalmas had us all engaged in an interactive musical extravaganza. After that I was interviewed by Jeremy's tape player, which as you might be able to tell from the photo, brought a bit too much delight to my listening friends. That's what I get for trying to volunteer Blake (to the right in photo 2) for the game. Jeremy's awesome and I'm going to be graced with his company in a week! Oh, I have to do my homework so I can hang out with Jeremy while he's around!!!

Feb 19, 2009

Voluntary Association!

My laptop's in the shop so I'm spending a lot of time at UCL, trying to get my coursework finished. I took a break with a friend because ArcGIS kept crashing, thwarting my efforts to map the potential for prescribed burns of pine forests on Tenerife. Conversing in the UCL union, we got to chattin' about how we make friends, how we associate with other humans.

Sometimes we're put into situations where we meet folks, like work, college, neighborhoods. And sometimes we create communities around ideas, dreams, and struggles. I've been lucky in London to find amazing people with which to share my own ideas, dreams, and struggles. I've found a community at the Library House where I organize in a collective of voluntarily associated people. The social centre offers a weekly cafe with free films from Cinema Libre and fresh vegan food. We have classes in Capoeira, yoga, and English. This weekend we're hosting a day of London Free School with workshops on internet security, knitting, flour and water, and Spanish. Next Saturday a Mini-Eco Fair is coming to the garden and building! We'll have Food Not Bombs with Reclaim Your Food cooking scrumptious nibbles. I'm pushing a Really Really Free Market and there will be art, as well as a bike power generation workshop. We're holding an open day on March 7th, which involves inviting neighbors over for tea and making plans for the community garden.

The Library House rocks. I love my collective and I love the space.

But I guess the Lambeth Council doesn't love us cuz we were served eviction papers on Tuesday. Yeah, the space is squatted. If you're reading from the US, take a breath, it's legal to squat here. Squatters have all sorts of rights and there's a formal procedure for getting our collective out of the space. We're going to court next week to make our case ... but it's pretty weak as you might imagine. Nonetheless, the Library House Collective is moving forward with events and organizing. Our voluntary association continues, despite the efforts of the council to disrupt and defray our power.

Our power is in our ability to come together and make a dump into a joyful, working and living space. Our power is extended when we lend ourselves to movements that are organizing in solidarity with our own ideals and dreams. These voluntary associations, laterally affiliated and extended freely, will continue even if we lose the space.

Feb 16, 2009

Walking and Urbanity

I spent 8 years as a walker in San Francisco. A dog walker, a neighborhood walker, a park walker. I'd bike to walk. You get used to distances, to deciding whether to ride or walk. I love walking, even in cities. Cars are annoying and demoralizing but you learn routes and find ways to get around the cars. You find quiet spots like Kite Hill or Brooks Park.

Saturday night was pretty mild in London so after a few (or too many) pints, I wanted a walk. In SF if I had been drinking and wanted to be more sober, I'd walk home. I've walked from Zeitgeist to my flat in the Excelsior more than twice, once even detouring for a midnight visit to Bernal Hill with Blake. On Saturday my friend and I decided to dip out for a walk in the mellow London night.

Damn this town is dense. We walked around Finsbury Park. Literally around it because it's fenced off and it was closed. It isn't even pleasant to walk next to a fenced park, really, cars whooshing by on the other side. I was anticipating a feeling of open-ness, space. Darkness can allow that sometimes. You know, how sometimes you can't see all the urbanity around you because it's dark so you feel like you've escaped it for a second.

Being inside is like a retreat from urbanity, but not one that offers me much release. I find my release outside, in nature. But London winter isn't always so compliant with my needs. Short, cold, wet days. And I have a damn hard time getting my friends to be outside with me! I guess that was a similar situation in SF, but I had so many canine friends that it didn't really matter. And eventually I found my tomboys, dog walkers, and weedies to spend time with.

I really miss my restoration days, particularly Wedsnedays with the California Native Plant Society crew. I miss that exchange of knowledge and general means of socializing in a productive way. Here I'm more engaged in human centered activities like social center organizing. I love that stuff, but it's always been a secondary passion, with animals and plants and bicycles being more important to me. Yeah, that would make it my quaternary passion, but I'm lumping the first bit into 'outsideness' for simplicity.

I'm trying to learn from my time as an indoorswoman. I probably would have never chosen some of the projects that I'm working on right now if I weren't in London in the winter. Other things would intervene and I'd be outside instead. So in some ways, the limitations presented by short, cold, wet days are opportunities for someone like me.

But in fairness to my friends here, I wish I could be outside more than just my daily bike rides. I'm annoying when I'm underexercised. Just tells you how great my friends are here, they tolerate me anyway.

Feb 12, 2009

Losing and Breaking Everything!

Wow, my time in London has been one long run of losing and breaking stuff. As if Compacting isn't enough of a challenge when you move 120 degrees of longitude with a suitcase, rucksack, and bicycle. I brought the essentials and I expected them to serve me well. But I've been going through weird spells of breakage and loss.

You may remember that I lost my phone in December. I lost my front bike light a few weeks ago in the same way, in nearly the same place as the phone. (That would be me riding with stuff in my pockets and having it fall out, hearing it, looking back at it, and thinking, "I don't have anything that looks like that" as I keep pedaling away.) I lost my hat on Monday. I've had that hat for years. It's small and sporty for sweaty cyclists. I want my hat back. I repaired my torn cycling gloves in November and lost one of them about a week later.

I replaced the cell phone with a used one. I replaced the front bike light with a new one (safety item that I couldn't find used in time to matter). I replaced the cycling gloves with new ones as well since I couldn't find used ones. My tendonitis demands gloves or my fingers go numb about 5 minutes into my ride.

Broken items also include the exceptionally expensive shoes that I bought when I got here. I've always taken walking shoes as a Compact exception as I'm a dog walker with a torn meniscus in my left knee. In fact, let's throw the knee in the broken category 'cause it hurts like a bitch since I've been relegating to hiking boots, flip flops, house slippers, or wellies having lost the walking shoes. I've returned these waterproof Merrells to Blacks for a refund but they shipped them off for replacement. Basically the left shoe just burst at the seam one day, in the rain. Stupid shoes. I'd like my money back, at the exchange rate that I paid.

My external keyboard broke when I spilled water on it. Without the space bar I was feeling pretty limited. I know I have the keyboard on the laptop but see tendonitis above for why I can't look down at the screen or raise my arms up to type the 1000's of words required by my course. (And add right elbow and neck to the list of broken items) I hit up Gumtree and EBay for a used one but the offers were all new or shipping from Hong Kong or California, which seemed insane. I took the keyboard to a shop and they said they wouldn't even try to repair it. I broke down and went to the Apple store for a new keyboard. It's shit. Why does the 3 key say it has a £ sign when I want to know that it has #? Everytime I hit return i get this: \ And the stupid usb ports are too weak to support my mouse. Evil piece of crap.

The salt for the snow ate the brakes on my bike. I thought I just needed to tighten them but realized I was metal to metal on the back. So I'm off to Bob's Bicycles after I finish whining about all the broken shit in my life. Breaks definitely qualify as a safety item, and were in fact one of the first things that came up when we started the Compact.

My beloved, bartered computer hates me. I'm having huge problems getting this powerbook to recognize and recieve power from a charger. I had one of those knock off chargers and Blake said his was doing the same thing. Thinking it was the charger, I replaced it with a way expensive Apple charger in my supreme frustration. That was not the problem. The blinking screen is going to give me a seizure one day. Right now I have the power lead pulled taught with a rubber band to get the right connection. Sometimes I have to hold these stupid charger in the right place and sometimes even that doesn't work. Once I get the rubberband secured I have to make sure I don't move the computer too much so it's been difficult to decide when to take the machine in for repair. Basically, it works right now so I don't want to move it! But I need IT help at college so I guess I'm taking it in today after the bike. And I miss the portability of having a LAPTOP, not a desktop computer.

I've hinted at the body issues, and if you know me personally, you know it's not a joke. If you know me personally, you might know that I have an evil tooth in the back of my head that has been an evil pain since September 2006. I broke it on Tofurky Jerky. Seriously. And crap crown number 2 fell out on Monday. Seriously! And if I can't get NHS to call me back about my knee, then I'm assuming that getting this crown put back on or better yet, just pulling that evil tooth, is going to be impossible. Health care is shit everywhere, don't romanticize the UK on that one. (And yeah, I'm acutely aware of how ridiculously awful health care is in the US)

I don't really have the money for all of this loss and breakage. All I can say is thank goodness the pound has crashed. Given that I'm still living on dollars saved over the past two years, I'm stoked. My tuition was about $3000 less this term than it was last term. Although that just means less debt in the end, it makes having to replace or repair my broken shit a bit less scary because I might make it to the end of my stay here on just my savings for living expenses. We'll see. A lot depends on the evil tooth I'm afraid.

Feb 7, 2009

Time: Nearly Southern

I should be sitting in a rocking chair on a Georgia porch as I sew this patch onto my new jacket. The jacket is indeed new, but was a hand over to me from my clients. Joel gave it to me after I walked Pixel and Raster yesterday in Brixton. (Backstory: Pix and Raster are my clients from SF who moved here! How lucky am I?)

So yeah, I'm listening to Gillian Welch, trying to sew this pretty patch over the logo on this jacket so I can be comfortable wearing it. For a second my regressive accent could be heard singing along: 'Time's a revelator'. Funny, my accent, though repressed, is real. Gillian Welch is from SoCal!!! And yet she sounds more Georgian that I do most of the time.

Anyway, I was feeling all nostalgic and nearly Southern, sewing and listening to blue grass. Never mind the content of the patch, which totally fucks up this image of me as a southern belle mending a torn dress or something. Yeah, the feeling of faded quickly as I got frustrated with the thickness of this jacket and kept ruining the line of the patch. I should wait and use a machine. My foray into hand patching is over as the light's fading and I don't have an oil lamp to maintain this idyllic picture in my head. But as the sewing was as much an exercise in procrastination as anything else, I easily transition into writing about sewing as a means of staving off writing about GIS or remote sensing or lakes.

So, yeah, Time ... I can't keep up. There are a million things I want to be doing all the ... time. Next weekend there's Reclaim Love and Food Not Bombs is cooking for that event. Or I could be at a Gender, Race and Class day of workshops at SOAS. The next weekend is London Free School but my friends will be in town for a radical health conference. On the 28th we're doing an eco-fair at the Library House, which will include Reclaim Your Food and a Really Really Free Market. In between I've got people to date and dogs to walk.

But I have so much writing to do. And I don't mean writing here or that ever so satisifying pile of correspondence with my people around the world. I definitely mean GIS and remote sensing and lakes and wetlands. It's cool, for now I'm going to whip up some cornbread 'cause procrastination is more efficient if you just do it all at once.

Feb 2, 2009

Whoa, Snow!

We've got some serious snow in London. I just went for a 2 hour walk with my housemates and the snow just keeps coming. I loved the walk and the view out my window is amazing. I don't see myself going to central London for lectures in the coming days if it stays like this. There are no trains! No buses down here in SE London. And I'm not taking my skinny-tired road bike out in this. I'm certain I'd crash. For now it's neighborhood walks and computer studies! And watching the frisky cats goof around in the snow. And watching Dash the dog accumulate snowballs on his fur. They look like high fashion tassels really. I'll try to get a good pic. These are goofy pooches from Peckham Rye Park.

Feb 1, 2009

No More Waffling

Ok, I'm in. I believe the hype: my conservation program is a door opening opportunity to do good shit for our planet. It's a done deal. I might even pay my fees sometime soon. (Having a seriously hard time signing the debt check.) I'm going to stop stalling on my coursework and just get through the boring bits.

Why am I suddenly feeling decisive? Well, I started pursuing my summer dissertation and have had a bunch of positive responses to my queries. I've started to see the light at the end of the academic tunnel and it's arid sunshine waiting to warm and test me. I'm not sure if I'm climbing out in SF or the Sonoran Desert, but I like the prospects of either.

I'm looking at several projects, leaning toward something with GIS and weed mapping. I like studying invasives, gets out my anti-colonialist aggression. I will not be doing anything with park use. It's been about 6 months since I wrapped up 2+ years of park use research and outreach. I'm spent on that. But knowing that the agency I worked for will take me back for more work is amazingly heartening and distractingly comforting. I'm broke as fuck. Going back to SF is probably my best financial bet. I could regroup my dog walking business and do my research and have a home to live in and a community to organize with. Oh SF, I do love you. Sorry for calling you a toxic womb. (but you kind of are)

If an opportunity in Arizona manifests, I'll likely go there to diversify my experience. It seems silly since my dream job is really with the SF Natural Areas Program. And I think my financial prospects are poor in Arizona. (If you'd like to help me absorb this financial hit for team earth, be in touch!) Can I bike for field work in the Sonoran summer sun? Maybe not, but I really do want to work near the border. I have a ridiculous affection for desert plants. Or maybe I'm just obsessed with them at the moment because it's snowing here and I'd rather be in Arizona. There are some amazing projects running with USGS that I'd lalala-love to be a part of. Phenology and invasive mapping and GAP analysis and predicitive modeling and cat scat collection and fire's effect on invasive grasses and dogs sniffing out endangered desert tortoises.

We'll see. The point here is that I'm sticking with the master's course. That I've discovered a new delima for fickle pondering should surprise no one. A perpetuation of my state of confusion seems a natural extension of this process. But a friend told me last week that I'd be happier if I made a choice about staying or going. He was right. And I do.

And I feel great about deciding to go West. I'm over the consideration of New Orleans wetlands and Atlanta parks. My immediate future is in the West. Somewhere between 105 and 125 degrees West and say 25 to 42 degrees north, with my two ideal spots being 37N, 122W or 31.7N, 109.9W. If you've never enjoyed the USGS Global Visualization Viewer, do check it out.