Dec 26, 2008

Christmas in Cornwall

I fled London on Tuesday afternoon via a train from Paddington Station. I was lazily making my way toward my train when Rose from my UCL course tapped me on the shoulder. Unbelievably, we were taking the same train west outta town. We actually didn't get to sit together much because she didn't have a seat but it was a nice way to start the journey to Cornwall.

The trains were flakey but I made it to Truro, where Max and her dog Ester greeted me. We drove down to Max and Ashley's place in Penryn. Upon my arrival, United Statesians outnumbered Brits in a show of 3 to 2. I'm not counting Ester as dogs, being generally wiser than humans, place no emphasis on nationality, just on where you piss daily. Max's brother, Adam, came to Cornwall, as did Madigan (aka Bonfire Madigan ). So we have familial British traditions and three Americans who've never had Christmas in the UK. Madigan's just touring here but Ashley and I are recent-ish transplants with a fair bit of homesickness with which to contend.

As a final 'gift' from 2008, my illness became resurgent on Tuesday and I spent most of Christmas eve in a daze. I've had so little voice that talking to people on the phone is torturous, abbreviating my holiday conversations with the fam back home. But on Christmas Day I couldn't be deterred from a trip to a Cornish, neolithic, stone circle, where we drank hot toddies and played with Ester. We dashed off to cliffs over the Atlantic, where Max pointed and stated calmly, "America, is over there". I dissolved into a fit of coughing giggles and somehow fought the urge to dive off the cliffs toward my homeland.

From my limited experience, I think Max and Adam provided a thoroughly British Christmas. Our dinner conversations were probably not very traditional but the food was nearly all Cornwallian in origin and entirely weird, but delicious, to me. Though the parsnips, chestnuts, butternut, and such were great, I have to focus on the Christmas pudding. They set that thing on fire. I was nervous all day as the thing steamed in a tupperware of boiling water. Then they turned it over and set it on fire. It burns because it's about 7% alcohol. Apparently the fruit can be steeped in alcohol for up to a year in advance. Then we put FOUR types of toppings on it. Five if you count the fire, really. We used hot custard, single cream, clotting cream, and brandy butter - yep, more alcohol. Seriously.

Besides the food, I've learned a new game, called Mystic Wood. It's permeated our conversations and in my oxygen deprived coughing fits, I sometimes think I'm a knight called Britomart. I'm currently contemplating a Mystic Wood tattoo, but the options are so outrageous that I'm not sure I can narrow it down. We played the extended edition, forcing us to append a long slice of cardboard to the table just to fit the board upon it. What is Christmas without some game induced rivalry? Dare I mention Trivial Pursuit, SF?

Today we explored beaches and graveyards and debated the way Brits and UStatsians relate to the term "charity". I coughed some more and had a bit more voice than yesterday. Still not enough to do the BBC interview tomorrow morning unfortunately! ('cause what I really want is to be on the radio soundin' like a dyin' frog suffering frequent bouts of desparate lung failure.)

Tomorrow everything changes. Max and Ashley are heading to Turkey in an effort to evade the grey of England. Madigan begins a long journey back to SF. And Adam returns to Bath. I'm staying here with just Ester, the dog, for ten long days. I know zero humans in Penryn. I might freak out at some point. But for the moment I'm hoping to get well enough for bike rides to the beach and long walks with the dog. I've got some major paper writing to finish. And at some point I'm sure I'll be distraught with loneliness, but for now my heart is full of the laughter that's filled the past few days. Unapologetically queer, radical, and American, Ashely and Madigan have sort of hit refresh on my identity. Adam's a breath of fresh air and the man makes a damn fine custard. Max, an ER nurse and British queer activist, has been a total rock since I came to this country and Christmas was no exception. Not only did she give me the dykiest keychain multi-tool for Christmas, but she's also given me an inhaler! With friends like these, I feel pretty grounded in this moment.

And when I do get lonely, I'll reread all the sweet emails i've gotten over the past few days. I'll mistily gaze at the pix of Quivus and Zalaazil that my good friend, Brandy, sent me yesterday (Zalaazil to the left, Quivus below). I'll re-read Hunter's zine on the border and ponder a dissertation. And eventually I'll call some friends in London and beg them again to come down here and spend some time with me. I'm sure I can convince one of them!

Dec 22, 2008

Comparative Narratives

On Friday my new SIM card arrived and by Sunday my phone was fully functional. The new modem also arrived on Friday, thus I was reconnected that way on Saturday. The connection in my room is still amazingly shit to be about 10 feet from the modem - but I'll sit on the floor by the door if it means I can Skype my friends. Or even email them.

Have I mentioned that last summer about half of my friends also left SF? I've got an amazing volley of correspondence going between myself and friends in SF, LA, Portland, Armenia, Cornwall, Oaxaca, etc. We're comparing notes on leaving pretty, gentrified SF. We're comparing notes on finding resources and like-minded people across the US and wherever the hell else we are. Some of us confess the ways Kirsten's death has hurt us and how it's made us feel in our new cities/countries. Some hate their new places, others love them.

I've also got a digital pile of lovely script from my people still in SF. Folks are keeping me up to date and while I know that time has lapsed, I still feel quite connected to my favorite folks. Thanks peops.

We write about it all: the weather, biking networks, queer culture, lack of queer culture, yummy food, icky food, pomegranates, universities, crappy jobs, zines, activism, squats, tree houses, oppressions, bad meetings, good organizers, future movements, high fashion, potlucks, and state of mind.

Here's a very small sampling of my favorite lines and their contexts from my correspondence over the past few months.

MJ in LA via chat: 'i know, it's rough. people's brains are different here'

BM in SF via chat, re: Prop 8 march: 'valencia st? what a hotbed of homophobia that is.'

H from Portland via email: I've been juggling school and teaching gardening and playing music and trying not to get to distracted by every other thing worth doing.'

SC in Oaxaca via email: 'In Teotitlan del Valle ... we dropped in on the town's annual "Venerable Blood of Christ" patron saint festival. No blood, but a lot of dancing and flowers.'

HJ in LA via email:
'LA is like cancer that goes into remission and then comes back, but on a much much faster time scale.'

AZ in SF via chat, responding to my assertion that 'there's fab shit going on here [London]': 'Bullshit. there's nothing. your city is cold and grey and the food looks like it's been through the laundry... it's all about dressup parties and paying ridiculous amounts of money to get around... even the punks are high fashion.'

JD in Armenia via email: 'Come visit me in Armenia! I am going to have a big potluck here and invite everyone from SF.'

RS in SF via email: 'hope all is good in jolly olde. have some cider and curry and mushy peas for me. but leave the special brew alone if you want my advice.'

Dec 19, 2008

On the Mend

Last night I was hanging out with a friend after a not so productive afternoon of studying, when we got all sorts of luxurious and decided to see a movie. We discovered that Milk was premiering at a film house fairly nearby in 30 minutes, so we dashed off to Belsize Park to this super swank theatre called Everyman. The tickets were outrageous, thank god the pound is losing value. But the place had wine service in your seats, which reclined. We had a couch actually. It was pimp.

Milk was fabulous. Though it's not exactly a pick me up sort of film, it was fantastically inspiring. It was great to see SF, including our gorgeous city hall. It wasn't like I didn't know how it would end, but I still cried a whole lot. I'm not generally one who looks for a charismatic leader to follow, but we could use a Harvey Milk right now. What a man of optimism and courage. And it was fucking awesome to see Tom Ammiano in the film as well. Another man of courage and optimism who's made us proud in SF.

I spent the night in North London last night after the film. I woke up to sunshine and fairly warm weather so I walked from Finsbury Park to UCL. It's about 5 miles and I loved it. I went through Finsbury Park and Regent's Park because it was too pretty out to resist. I've missed walking like that every day. I need to find some dogs to walk here, perhaps that would give me some purpose. Too bad I have class in the middle of the day so much.

All in all, I'm hoping I'm on the mend. I feel better physically and mentally. I'm going to try to keep some positive vibes as I try to write my essays. I'd like to finish the first before I head to Cornwall. Here's hoping.

Dec 17, 2008

A Very Grumpy Christmas List

On Friday my first term at UCL ended around 3:30. By 6:30 I felt flu-ish and left for home. Along the way I lost my phone and every number I have for any English or England based friends. I spent Saturday in fits of fever and chill, supplemented with shitty Hollywood movies available around my house. On Sunday my internet connection went out at home. Now I can’t even Skype or chat my people in Cali or Georgia. I’ve been dragging my ass to UCL because I can’t really afford to give up even one day of paper searching before I head to Cornwall for two weeks.

Today I’m writing my Christmas list.

- Reliable internet for London. Seriously, is SF just exemplary or should I expect a world class city like London to have reliable internet?

- A new-used cellphone. Absent a phone and internet I feel like I’m a planet away from my friends and family when I really need them most. Isolation.

- A new-used computer keyboard. I brought the damn thing all the way from SF and on my birthday I spilled water on it. I killed some punctuation, the letter P, and the all important space bar. My attempts at repair were fruitless, unless you count bringing me closer to Quivus, whose soft grey hair I found in abundance under the white keys.

- Five Minutes with Gravity. I’d like to meet the force that dogs my steps to ask what I’ve done to deserve such poor balance. Can I make amends? My knees can’t take any more and I think I might have chipped a bone in my elbow.

- 30 Minutes in the Chair of a Punk Irish Stylist. I need a haircut. And the only woman I’ve ever let cut and keep my hair short is about 5,000 miles away. Must be good with a razor.

- Warm Clothes. Crap was I unprepared. I need pants w/o holes in the knee, more long-sleeved undershirts, and a serious sweater or two. But no more red! I seem to have enough and here I feel less fiery than my wardrobe indicates.

- One 60 Watt CFL with the Pokey Connectors. The light’s been out in my room since last Wednesday. I bought a new bulb but, silly American, I got the kind that screws into the socket. I’ve never seen these alien bulbs before.

- A Better 2nd Term at UCL. Please Santa, let my course be better next term. I fight the urge to quit on a near daily basis. It’s demoralizing. Let GIS be a new beginning.

- A Better 2009. 2006, 2007 were times of fantastic passion and productivity. 2008 feels like stagnation and the rotting of my creativity, worth, and utility. 2009 has to be better or I’m going to the mall with a pocket full of plastic.

Dec 15, 2008

Gifting Prospects

It's taken me forever to write this half-hearted attempt at alternative gifting practices for those of you unwilling stuck in the wheel of Christmas consumption. You can search "gift" or "Christmas" for more coherent thoughts from years past. You might also look at the main Compact Yahoo group for the 1,000 re-uses of a plastic bag and other wild ideas. (Be warned, that list is HIGH volume, I recommend "web only" as the message setting.)

- Opt out. Explain to your office, church, school, mates, or family that you don't want to gift this year.

- Exchange time together. Rather than giving objects, a huge percentage of which will end up in landfill, share experiences. Swap yummy dinners, theatre nights, afternoons of volunteerism, days of recreation, long walks, hands of poker, or whatever you can think of.

- Give a needed service. Offer your time as a babysitter, gardener, dog walker, carpenter, bike mechanic, artistic eye, fashion adviser, statistics tutor.

- Share a talent. Play a song, read a poem, draw a picture, sculpt your affection origamically. Bake some yummy, vegan treats to share. Mix some fancy drinks.

If you feel you really have to give someone a physical thing, consider something practical, with some sort of sentiment articulated in a card. CFL's might be nice. Maybe a transit card? Eco-hints though, avoid being preachy.

And if someone gives you some useless piece of shit that makes you want to scream, don't trip. It's not worth it.

Dec 9, 2008

Cafe Marie Wednesday: Reclaim Your Food

In preparation for Reclaim Your Food in Brixton and Food Not Bombs in Whitechapel this weekend, we'll be showing films on food production at Cafe Marie tomorrow (Wed Dec 10th) at the Library House. Come over some food beforehand then cuddle up to enjoy Reclaim Your Surplus and Our Daily Bread.

Get free food in Whitechapel on Saturday, Dec 13th or in Brixton (by the Ritzy) on Sunday, Dec 14th. (I'll be in Brixton for sure, maybe Whitechapel too).

Dec 8, 2008

Biking London

When I moved to London in September, I brought a Terry Classic road bike that I put together with a new friend's tools. I was riding with Max and Ashley through central London by twilight on the way to get some curry. My rides since have often been less idyllic, but my affinity for cycling never really falters in the backwash of diesel exhaust and slippery streets. If anything, I get annoyed with the place, rather than my mode of transport. Last week at Cafe Marie I encouraged folks to speak of the joy that our lifestyles bring. So that's what I'm setting out to do here. I don't want to talk about collisions, of which I've had a few. And it's been sunny for three days so let's ignore the rain factor.

Instead, envision the independence brought by two wheels. The perfect pace of pedaling, where landscapes are on the horizon long enough to enjoy but not so long that you get bored. Your body's warm even though it's cold as hell because you're working, moving yourself along. Consider maneuvering the urban streetscape a fun technical challenge, grate by grate, pothole by pothole. Give yourself a bit of love for your knowledge of your momentum, application of precision and balance.

Sometimes we have to think about the joy. I've had a lot of wonky bike-ness lately. I think I've mentioned that I'm a shit mechanic ... and that I put my bike together when I got here. And I think I've told the story of Terry (see left), the bike given to me by Kim and Dan at Heavy Metal BikeShop in San Francisco - best shop EVER. This bike shifted like butter when it came into my life. Two collisions in two weeks gave both Terry and myself a bit of road rash and stiffness.

While I can manage my own injuries, this last fight with gravity damaged my lovely bike beyond my abilities. Yesterday I went to 56a infoshop to the women and trans bike repair workshop! Even before crash's one and two, it was my intention to attend this workshop as I need to become a better bike mechanic and I am personally better at learning such things from other women. It's worth saying here, that part of what I always loved about Heavy Metal was that Kim and Dan were never patronizing or sexist when I came in with my bike. That's not been my experience at all bike shops/bike events/bike rides/etc.

I've been to 56a on the regular open days to borrow tools and get some fab help with my recurrent troubles on my bearings. But I learned sooooooo much yesterday! Though the workshop was to be about brakes, when I showed up with a wonky wheel, it became bit of a focus. Carolyn, bike diva with in home tools on my first day in London, taught us about the theory and mechanics behind the wheel. My front wheel was warped for the length of about 6 spokes such that it swung over onto the brake. We marked the trouble spot with a marker and Carolyn loosened the right spokes and tightened the lefts to pull the wheel off the brake.

It was a pretty dramatic moment for me. I actually gasped audibly when on the first spin Carolyn had tweaked my wheel off the brake. You have to imagine that I'd just spent 20 minutes tenderly wiping all the nasty street grit off my bike. I'd poked into crevices of oily smut to free joints and engender complicity in my bike. It's more anthropomorphic than I like to get, but as I cleaned my bike, I was thinking that Terry had to want to get better. Uncertainty had briefly penetrated my bastion of confidence: I got a little kooky for a second. I snapped out of it as Carolyn demystified the wheel before my eyes. Does it make sense to say that the magic of bicycles grounded me?

The sound council of the bike gurus at 56a also grounded me. I was advised in no uncertain terms to take my bike in for a post collision assessment to ensure that nothing else on Terry needs attention. And while I took my own turns with the spoke key, attempting to true my front wheel, the magic of the tweaking was limited to pulling the wheel off the brake, not to bringing it into symmetry. So after I adjusted my brakes, tightened my rack, and accepted the wonky wheel, I got a reference to a bike shop.

This morning I popped into Bob's Bicycles (9 John Ruskin Street SE5 0NS) on my way to class. I showed him the wheel and bearings, described some derailleur drama, and asked if he could secure my rear mudguard. He promised to try to true the wheel before replacing it with a used one if required. I called at midday and my bike was finished! Bob quoted me about 20 pounds and I told him I'd come after class. I took a little spin down the street when I picked Terry up. The derailleurs felt weird but Bob explained that he'd adjusted everything so I should give time for everything to stretch and absorb lube. He also told me to come back if it wasn't better in a day or two. My bearings are smooth for the first time since I've been here. My wheel is new-to-me but used and true. My derailleurs smoothed noticeably on the way home.

In the end, Bob charged me 15 pounds. There were folks hanging out in the shop when I dropped off and when I picked up. It reminded me soooo much of Heavy Metal. Good mechanics, fair price, an effort to repair before selling something new, and respectful treatment of women cyclists. Cycling in London is OK.

My birthday's in an hour so I'm going to sleep. I'm hoping for sun so I can have a nice long ride before a long day of lectures about WWF and UNEP. For anyone hoping I'll write about Christmas, be patient. Christmas comes after my birthday and is particularly easy to ignore this year, what with my homesickness and general disinterest in gifting. But I am compiling some thoughts.

Dec 5, 2008

A Shout Out to My Plants

London's full of amazing people and projects, but there's a dull ache in everything I do this week. My birthday's next week and the holidays are coming. It's cold, wet, and dark most of the time ... I'm fucking homesick. Yesterday's Climate March suffers my comparisons to SF demos. I'm doing my best not to be an activist snob, because I know that's pointless. And I'm not trying to wallow in my ache for coyote bush, kitties, and radicals 122 degrees West of here.

I'm also not trying to numb myself. I could make myself feel better for a second by trying to buy something "special" for all the peops that I miss. I could painstakingly wrap trinkets in cleverly selected sheets of newspaper and mail some tokens home. Then I could add feeling even more broke to homesickness! Yippee!

Meanwhile, my plantings turn a year old next week. Can someone in SF liberate my Clarkia, Viola, Scrophularia, Tellima, Achillea, Grindelia, Horkelia, Sildacia, Ribes, and Phacelia from all the ehrharta, mallow, and nasturtium that have assuredly begun to encircle them? Yeah, I realize that I named a few annuals, the individuals of which are long dead, but whose seeds I've scattered in hopes of a future generation. But if anyone is going to go liberate my plants, they need to know what they're looking for. Free my plants! Best birthday present I could get would be someone ensuring that those natives will be there in the spring for the bees and lady bugs (see her on the yarrow).

We put most of these pretties in on my birthday last year because, in case you didn't know, San Francisco has just entered the planting season. While London's cold and inhospitable to baby plants right now, rains begin to sprinkle on SF, coaxing vegetation from dormancy. Land managers are shifting from invasive control to the joys of planting. It's a nurturing time of year. Less removal, more contribution. This time last year I was wrapping up the radical restoration workshops, giving away a few more plants, and laying down my own roots.

I haven't touched dirt in a meaningful way in months. That's got to change or I'm going to go nuts. Luckily, there's a gardening workparty on Fridays at the Library House. I only have one more week of class, then I can attend that too. I'm heading out of London for most of the holidays, but not to the US as I can't justify or afford the flying. I'm going to visit and document a tree sit at Titnore in about a week. And in Cornwall I should get some gardening time at Max and Ashley's allotment. I'm going to love the dirt, even if it's not Georgia's clay or SF's sand.

Dec 4, 2008

International Day for Climate: Sat Dec 6th

If you're in London, I hope to see you at the Climate March this Saturday. Assemble at noon at Grovesnor Square (previously Hyde Park so note this change). Or go on the bike ride that precedes the march. And do come to the after-party at the Synergy Centre, which is going to be fab. I can say this in part because I've met some of the promoters and a friend of mine will be playing in the chill out room upstairs!

If you're not in London, you might check this website to see if there's something going on in your country, state, town, backyard.

So much climate change talk. It's easy to get overwhelmed. Or at least that's what we were saying last night at the Library House. Cinema Libre presented one full length film, "The Planet" and two shorts, "No New Coal" and "Tipping Point". "The Planet" invoked a fairly passionate discussion that began with more discussion of consumerism and led to talk of transition towns, alternative communities, and individual action.

Several of us spoke of the enormity of climate issues. Sam, who backs Cinema Libre and was at the Climate Security talk last week, recalled the advice of Leila Deen. She suggested that we all find some way to contribute, such as pushing to ban incandescent bulbs or to restore a bit of woodland, or whatever drives you. I find this very good advice, particularly as someone who tends to take on a lot of issues from borders to gay rights to consumption to transportation to restoration. Yeah, I guess for me it's easier said than done.

But the point is that I feel better knowing that I'm not responsible for it all. And neither are you. Most of all, you're responsible for your actions. And you have to find ways to be forgiving of even your choices at times, particularly when they're made with intention.

Beyond simply taking ownership of our own impacts, those of us who give a shit need to find a way to bring others into action. I'm asking that you don't search the terms apocolypse, clusterfuck, or wasteland on this blog, but rather pretend that I have a mandate to say this: We need to demonstrate the joy to be found in conservation. We need to focus on all that we have to gain. If you're reading here, then you're probably pretty disenchanted with shopping and vapid consumption. Maybe you've found the other things in life that give you joy, like gardening, biking, creating, or whatever else. We need to bring "whatever else" to the fore. We have to demonstrate alternatives in our economics (gift economies), in our homes (transition towns?), transportation, education, etc.

We need to show people the beautiful alternatives to buying loads of plastic shit. We need to show people clever, creative, inviting alternatives to buying into an economic system built on the exploitation of Earth's resources. You get it. And we can.

For now, let's have a street demo. Come with your ideas, a smile, and a clever sign (I skipped a pole and cardboard: so can you). See you Saturday.

Dec 1, 2008

Films on Climate Change at Cafe Marie, Weds 12/3

In preparation for the Climate March on Saturday, Cinema Libre is presenting 'Tipping Point' and 'No New Coal' at Cafe Marie, this Wednesday December 3rd. The cafe is free at the Library House! We make food, watch films, and discuss them. You'll love it.

I think my coursemates and I are going to make some signs on Friday for the march. I'm feeling without creativity and wondering what we're going to put on those signs. I tried to convince my friends of the visual impact that dressing in the same color can make but I think I've failed to persuade them. We'll see.

Nov 30, 2008

Consumerism Kills: Wal-Mrt Stampede

I have no kind words for the mob that stormed a Wal-Mrt on Long Island this Black Friday, killing a temporary worker in its zealousness for cheap crap. Jdimytai Damour died under the feet of greed as 2,000 people flooded into the store to steal a bargain (from the hands of exploited workers abroad). Way to go Wal-mrt. Keep working consumers into a frenzy for your unethical loads of shit. Create casualties at the endpoint as well as the start.

We're all whining about the credit crunch, capitalist collapse, people goin' broke. But, fuck, if we still have the money to storm the sales at Wal-mrt, killing a man in the process, perhaps we're not hurting at all. Or maybe we're ready to pile a bit more on before we wake up to the emptiness of consumerism.

Run that credit card as high as it will go. Make a resolution on the first. Then stop. Then withdraw from the plastic shit that lines your walls, your handbags and briefcases, the plastic shit that lines your life. Then get the bills for your stuff-lust and start hauling the detritus off to the thrift store or the dump 'cause you never really wanted it anyway. It doesn't make you happy anyway. And you know it going in to this Christmas season. Know it's all pressure and corporate hype, not peace and friendship, but an over-extending exercise in making the rich richer as the poor struggle to breathe under mounds and mounds of shit.

I was going to write about some fun stuff today. I'm still excited about the folks I've met in the past few weeks. Still stoked to work on some new projects. But a few people sent me this story and after a weekend of admittedly debaucherous revelry, I've finally gotten around to reading it. All of my optimism seems drained. I'm feeling sick to my stomach, thinking of death by Wal-Mrt mob.

Hope? Change?

Nov 27, 2008

Climate Security Talk Tonight + RIP Harvey Milk

Tonight I went to a talk on climate security at the Friends House on Euston Road. I saw George Monbiot and Caroline Lucas, among others, speak of not only the realities and solutions, but also immediate actions we can take against climate change.

I should confess that I've been hesitant to focus on climate science to this point. Tonight things were made clear to me that I've been loathe to grasp. I've been made to consider the the loss of birds for wind farms. Not wholesale, but that I'd even consider such energy advances over particular species or habitats is actually a progression for me. I am a landscape motivated individual. I work in habitat. I care for land and creatures. When forced to consider the implications of wider systemic changes, I'm often resistant in favor of the preservation of particular habitats. But tonight I was asked to consider the implication for all habitats if these changes are not enacted. It's grim in the best of scenarios.

And finally, I'm on the climate change bandwagon. I'm ready to do my part in terms of pushing for change. I've resisted. I've thought that there's no Earth worth saving without all its parts. There's no point in conserving a wasteland. Earth will seek a balance, with or without us. We're not saving the planet but our ability to inhabit it. I felt stubbornly that we couldn't just focus on carbon and climate. For a land lover such as myself, it's an annoying distraction and huge question mark when we get on the ground to preserve something physical and beautiful right in front of us. But now I'm more ready to devote my words and activism to climate change because we'll need conservationists to protect actual land if we're to get through this mess with an Earth of diversity, a planetary home that most of us want to enjoy.

We were called to engage tonight by the eloquent speakers at the climate security talk. We engage on the political level to elect people like Caroline Lucas, who defy conventional political will by engaging in actions such as the Climate Rush. We engage on the social level by taking up initiatives against a new runway at Heathrow or the Kingsnorth plant. And we engage on the individual level in every way that we can afford to do.

I'll write more about this talk soon. Or perhaps a friend my course will lend his expertise.

Also wanted to pay some due respect to Harvey Milk tonight. He was assassinated 30 years ago today (still today in SF), but still serves as a notable inspiration to loads of us queers looking to live an honest and open life of public activism. Harvey Milk was out and proud to be the first Californian elected to popular office. I'm proud to have lived in the city that brought him to politics, proud to have walked the streets of the Castro and SF City Hall in his wake. Proud to know that my own potential was extended by his courage. I wasn't alive in his lifetime, but Harvey Milk made my life easier. Thanks, Harvey. SF and all us queers fall back on your radical courage and action.

Buy Nothing Day Part 2

Again, Buy Nothing Day (BND) is this Friday in the US (Black Friday) or this Saturday in the UK. You are encouraged to keep your dollars and pounds in the wallet on these days.

Last night Cinema Libre screened Manufactured Landscapes at the Library House to stir up some discussion on consumerism and BND. I want to recommend this film to anyone who can get her hands on it. It's a beautiful film that offers little narration, though enough to keep you interested. I won't describe it because I won't do it justice, but check it out and share it with folks.

The film led to a discussion about how we can move the ideas of over-consumption into the societal conversation. I was feeling pretty overwhelmed by the film, myself. But other folks had some great input and ideas, particularly around Buy Nothing Day actions. You can expect to see some mobile free shops in London. And there will be stationary groups of people at a few high density shopping locations to give out free food and propaganda. I'll try to take some pix for posting.

See the previous post for BND activities in SF or London. Come out and have some fun.

Nov 26, 2008


Buy Nothing Day (BND)is this Friday in the US or this Saturday in the UK. Even if you're not a Compact adherent, I challenge you to spend no dollars or pounds, no pennies or pence on your respective BND.

The holiday season is upon us. We're in the midst of a financial crisis, brought on by capitalism run amok, consumerism controlling our lives. Draw back, take stock, and take a stand against more of the same by not engaging in the consumerist clusterfuck. Yes we can, say no to buying more than we can afford. Yes we can consider the ramifications of our consumption. And, yes we can offer alternatives to consumption:

For BND in London, I'm working with some sweet folk on a project to take some free food and other wares to Brixton. We're meeting at the Library House (52 Knatchbull Rd SE5 9QY) at 11 AM to depart on bikes. More info here if you wanna come! More UK BND info here.

In San Francisco, there's the Really Really Free Market on Saturday in Dolores Park from 1-5pm. Or on Friday, join Bay Area Source at 23rd and Valencia for a clothes swap and plant barter.

In other news, I got hit by a white van today in Peckham. Ouch. Technically, it was my fault. I really thought the guy had just nodded at me to make my right turn in front of him since he was creeping along in a line of cars. Guess I misinterpreted him cuz as I was square in front of him, he gassed it into me. I'm fine. I pretty much scrambled onto his bumper/hood as my bike went down. We're both ok, though I think it popped my rear tube.

I was on my way to pick up sheets and pillow cases from a fellow Freecycler. I made it there eventually and am now looking forward to sleeping on brand new, hypoallergenic linen. Thanks, Heather!

Nov 23, 2008

Learning in London

Free from pressing school deadlines, I stepped away from academia this weekend for a bit of Free Skoolin'. Across London there were workshops, skillshares, and art classes for folks open enough to learn from an equal. I've spent about 8 weeks under a flood of expert education. Education imbued with hierarchy and elitism. But Free Skool, like infoshops and other skillshares, gives us a chance to learn about ideas that interest us (climate change, art, music, bike repair, self defense, permaculture) outside of the institutional setting.

Most relevant to this blog, I attended a workshop on Class and Climate Change. Attendees were involved or interested in class struggle or environmental movements at various levels. We discussed the way that climate change will affect different groups of people in the world and at smaller scales. Hurricane Katrina was considered a potential worst case scenario of climate chaos: Poor people being left behind as people with privilege escape the most damaging impacts. Rising food and fuel costs disproportionately affecting the poor was another example considered.

We considered the way that climate change can feel really abstract in your daily life, even if your food and fuel costs are rising. It's tough to pin that on a source. We call it the economy much more readily than calling it scarcity or an environmental issue. I kept thinking about wildfire news. We usually hear about million dollar mansions about to be devoured, or some celebrity who might lose a home. Unless the homes of 500 poor people are wiped out at once. It's not a human interest item unless a bunch of poor people get fucked. Kinda like Katrina, no? I digress (therefore, I blog).

We also talked about what could enhance the immediacy of climate change for people and something pretty fab came up. We kinda started talking about phenology. I find this fab because I've been thinking about ways to do a phenological dissertation that might contribute to the conservation of a species, hopefully one that indicates health of a habitat, while also highlighting the immediacy of climate change. Yeah, phenology is that old naturalist science of recording natural events. Like when butterflies emerge from cocoons or when flowers bloom or whatever natural events tend to coincide with temperature, seasonality, etc.

I like phenology because it has the potential to erode skepticism associated with climate change. Events like Katrina and two years of drought in California are explained away as episodic variations in nature's rythms. Most of us realize that nature isn't blissfully balanced but is in fact capable of terrific displays of unremittent ferocity. So we can pass off intensifying hurricane seasons, prolonged droughts, and mild winters as variations along a vast timeline.

But what happnes when you start talking to people about the lack of snow on a local mountain? Or the way that trees hang on to their leaves into December when they used to drop in late October? I hear people open up and contribute their own anecdotal experiences, even in places like rural Georgia. It's the kind of change that people can be bothered to lament. And I think it's a way to further the discussions of climate change in popular venues. I'm not necessarily talking about convincing people that climate change is real, but more that climate change must be addressed ... NOW.

Is it me or have we reached several thresholds at once? Ecological, Economic, Social... We have an amazing opportunity with the collapse of our economic systems. We can make a new way forward, absent the ultimate global inequality that has brought us to climate chaos and scarcity. I'm not talking about carbon trading, clean fuel, or green consumerism, addressed nicely by CorpWatch here. And I'm not talking about all of us moving to the sticks and going off the grid. There just ain't enough land for 6-9 billion of us to do that. But instead of fully market based solutions, I'm more excited by the Green for All concept pushed by Van Jones. I don't love it when he goes off on the power plant or wind/wave/solar farm ideas, but I do like that he's taken the economic crisis and not only offered a viable solution but one that could affect inequality and climate change and habitat/species loss if enacted responsibly. (Paving California's deserts with solar panels wouldn't help habitat, for example. Instead I favor putting those panels closer to the sources that need them, like on top of buildings and such). I'm not sure that these solutions are as anti-capitalist as I am personally, but I support their exploration as a viable alternative to business as usual.

As much as I love the individual initiatives like the Compact, I recognize that the lifestyle choices of the few will rectify little if we don't make some huge systemic changes. I love challenging myself to be be as carbon neutral as possible, but when I have to turn on the heat, I don't have a lot of good options. Lifestyle purity - if that's your thing - won't spare one the non-discriminating effects of climate change. So we need some bigger solutions. We need bigger but decentralized solutions wherever possible.

So that's what Free Skool did to me this weekend. It reopened my brain. It connected some academic learning to some real life situations and perceptions. It reminded me that we're all experts and no one is an expert. It allowed me to creatively relate my science to my social life, resuscitating a bit of me that's been on life support for the past few months as I've had my head stuck up my transcontinental ass. Oh, and Free Skool exposed me to three awesome autonomous spaces and about 50 radical peops I hope to see again!!! Damn, and I wrote all of this without ever touching the free boxes, People's Republic of Southwark, and the mini-ecofair that holds promise for a monthly Really Really Free Market in London. Next time, then.

Nov 17, 2008


Wow, what a couple of weeks. I was enthralled by the US election while writing two excruciatingly tedious papers for my course. With the second of those behind me, I'm looking forward to spending the rest of the week in the New Forest, where I'll learn about conservation monitoring and take pretty pictures of ponies.

A bit of a round up:

Things Conservationists do continued...
Garden for wildlife!
Feed wildlife?

More Freecycle/Weird Re-use Moments
I'm now on the hunt for some goofy stuff like pillow cases, sheets, and coat hooks. I'm in desperate need of tupperware as the yogurt containers are not suitable for re-use. I find myself hanging on to odd jars (like jalapenos) for spice storage. I was actually trying to figure out if I could funnel soup into a handle bottle of Jim Beam. Determined this was impractical and am currently considering the purchase of processed pasta sauce so I can have the jar.

Food storage is really the smaller of my worries. I got weird about a plastic bag today, partly over OCDish parsimony and partly for sentimental reasons. Yeah, I said it, I got oooey gooey over a plastic bag. It's a Lucca bag. You know, the ravioli on Valencia. Right, so maybe I really like that place right? Nope. I've never ever been in there. I snagged this bag from a recycling spot at Good Life Grocery months ago (seriously, I left SF in August). But it's a good, sturdy bag. And it does remind me of home. So I couldn't put it into the bin for trash collection. Had to hang onto it, hoping to get a few more uses out of it. Weird, I know. Who knows when I'll get rid of that SF Chronicle bag that holds all of my other bags. Probably not until I start walking dogs again. That way the bag ends its functionality covering shit, much as it began its life.

And finally there's a great group in the Bay Area that I thought I'd mention for readers there. Bay Area Source has a Buy Nothing Day celebration in the off. Check it out!!!! Plants and anti-consumption - What more could you ask for?

Plant Barter, Potluck and Clothes Exchange
Friday, November 28th, 1-4pm
Corner of Valencia and 23rd St.

To honor Buy Nothing Day! and to celebrate gift economies we'll be hosting a sidewalk plant barter, potluck and clothes exchange. Sing us a song, give us some seeds, or figure out another trade for a small plant of your choice (we'll have a wide range, from house plants to edibles to medicinals on hand.) Bring your Thanksgiving leftovers and share a plate with friends and strangers. Bring clothes to swap, or just come by to say hello.

Zine Release Party
Monday, December 8th, 6:30-8:30
Mission Pie, 2901 Mission Street (at 25th)

Come celebrate the release of our 3rd issue at Mission Pie! We'll have local honey to taste, a sauerkraut demo and homemade goods to eat. Our latest zine on urban self-sufficiency will also be available with info on raising chickens in the city, fermenting, canning and more. Bring a jar and bring a friend.


Nov 15, 2008

LA Wildfires

It's hard for me to imagine wildfires as i sit in damp England, but they're raging in LA. I've got several friends in LA, and though I'm not one to freak out over natural disasters, I've been thinking of them lots. California is a hazard zone: wildfires, earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, oh my! While a lot of these events are relatively natural, they're often human influenced, or they have the potential to hurt a lot of people. Or destroy their homes at the least, like today's terribly sad leveling of a mobile home park. Wouldn't it be helpful if the folks living in the FEMA trailers post Katrina all had housing now and we could pass those homes on to the folks in Sylmar who just lost theirs?

I hope that Compactors and like minds in LA can find a way to reach out to these folks. 500 homes, gone. And I shudder to think of how much insurance money one recoups on a mobile home. Will it be enough for folks to relocate, particularly in the current economic disaster?

Normally I wouldn't holler about fire suppression, but as the Santa Ana winds blow the Sylmar fire through the foothills, I wonder what started it and how it's going to move. Our fire suppression techniques have changed the way that fires move, as well as they way that they affect habitat. Suppression can increase the fuel load in a landscape if we don't let wildlands burn on an episodic basis. Then the fires tend to linger, burning more hotly, and deeply into the vegetation, thriving on the increased fuel. So we have bigger fires that do more damage to even fire resilient trees and grasses.

By the time they hit cities, these fires can be huge and forceful. Ad those hot Santa Ana winds at 75 mph and you've got a fierce force of nature to fight. Some of these fires are started by lightning. Some are from cigarettes. Lawn mowing at the wrong time of year has destroyed entire communities. Last year a guy sent up a flare when he got lost hiking.

I'm pondering all of this more than I usually do because I wonder if I'd enjoy working on these lands. Could I help further sensitive techniques that could reduce fuel load and enhance habitat? Would I be comfortable working of prescribed burns? There's a lot at stake, including the emotional investment one makes in a landscape, not to insinuate that all is lost in the habitat sense when these fires rage. But there are some concerns with this one for endangered species.

More than anything, I'm procrastinating on a paper I need to be writing about gloomy, damp dunes in England. As I write about these habitats I think more and more of where I want to work and do my thesis this summer. I know I'm not staying here to do a project, but I'm still feeling out some other habitats. I was nearly sold on wetland restoration ... but not so much now. So I'm back to contemplating the deserts of the west, maybe the SF delta. The world feels really big when I think about these things, makes it hard to narrow my focus.

Back to the dunes for now. And probably some peeks at the fire news as I putter along on this paper.

Nov 11, 2008

Smash Prop 8! This Saturday, 11/15

I said I'd save my Californian disappointment for another day. Well, that day has arrived. California's Proposition 8 asked voters to vote yes or no on the following question: Shall the California Constitution be changed to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry providing that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California?

52% of California voters chose to approve this measure, thus writing discrimination into our state constitution.

This Saturday there will be demonstrations in San Francisco and across California supporting the repeal of Prop 8. Repurpose some cardboard to make a clever sign and join in the fight for equality under the law. Apparently there will be demos across the country as well. Smash Prop 8!

I know that a lot of people like the ability to legislate through the ballot box, but I personally find the initiative process a perversion of democracy. I've been a detractor for years, not just since Prop H8, as it's become known. Democracy does not mean majority rule. In fact, we have safeguards, such as 2 senators per state and super-majority rules for changing constitutions, to ensure that the majority does not take away the liberties of the minority.

Unfortunately, the initiative process can be used to take away the rights of the minority. And the initiative process requires a highly informed electorate, something we rarely have. I voted on 12 state propositions and 22 San Francisco propositions, plus supervisor, college board, school board, BART board, Congress, local judge, and president. How many people actually do the level of research required to vote intelligently on all of these issues? Not many, I'm guessing.

I realize that it doesn't take a super-informed person to know the difference between right and wrong on the Prop H8 decision. It's one of those issues that I frankly think belongs with the courts, who made a well reasoned decision last spring.

But there are other issues, such as clean energy, that come before us in the initiative, rather than in front of legislators who can negotiate. Once we vote on something like gas tax, "the people have spoken" and it ties the hands of those elected to draft and modify our laws. Initiatives make it more difficult to pass intelligent laws, often binding the state to weird budgets, percent spending, or other parameters. Once the initiative has enough signatures, it's put on the ballot and set in stone. No more room for negotiation, leaving voters with bad choices between passing a law they don't really like or not addressing some issues, like public power, at all.

Prop 8 has really caused a resurgence in my antipathy toward the initiative process. Maybe I'm just super pissed that I can't be involved in any of the demo's this weekend.

If you're wondering what this has to do with not shopping or sustainability, I'll make some tangential connections for you.

First, this writes the religious views of the majority into our state constitution. Our laws separating church and state are clearly meant to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority. This precedent gives fodder to other religious intrusions into our laws. Fundamentalist interpretations of religion are often used against science and in favor of the "man over nature" paradigm that has arguably gotten us into the ecological messes we're currently trying to offset, clean up, or reverse.

Anecdotally, conservation and environmental fields are pretty gay in my experience. So how 'bout some rights, California? Treat us equally so we can get back to saving your asses from climate change, vapid consumption, and the monotony of a species-poor-planet. Our co-workers miss our focus. Maybe you can focus your morality on your personal consumption of the resources god gave you. And I can go back to focusing on how best to conserve them.

SMASH the H8!

Things conservationists do ...

As you know, I'm studying conservation at UCL so I'm around other conservationists and reading and talking about envir issues all the time. Makes it redundant to write about it at times. But here's a short list of things, positive and negative, that people do either in the name of conservation, or despite being a "conservationist". Some of these examples include my own conflicting actions, the rest just offer a composite of all the folks I know. (Apreciate that I'm exploring the "mixed bag" metaphor in all aspects of my life right now, if you can.)

I expect I'll add to this list. Maybe you can help me.

carry a personal spoon!
drink bottled water?
pull invasive plants!
pull rare plants for id purposes?
ride bicycles!
fly in planes to talk about conservation?
grow vegetables!
eat loads of meat?
shop second hand!
have used purchases shipped long distances?

Nov 5, 2008

Focusing on the Sweet Bits

As I anticipated, the election results are a mixed bag. Today I'm trying so hard to focus on the sweet bits, leaving the sour behind for days when I feel like fighting.

A short list of wins from my perspective:
Farm Animal Enclosures in Cali (Prop 2) - Passed (rights gained)
Minor Abortion Rights in Cali (Prop 4) - Failed (rights retained)
High Speed Rail SF to LA - (Prop 1) Passed!
Progressive Sweep in SF Board of Supervisor Elections!
Tom Ammiano goes to the State Assembly
Obama goes to the White House

Mostly proud of SF and the U.S. at large.
Saving my disappointment in Cali for another day. A day soon to come when we all remember that voting is the easiest bit of democracy in the U.S.
For now I'll celebrate.

Nov 4, 2008

More Freecycle and Being in Britain on US Election Day

This morning I snagged a toasty blanket from a local Freecycler, bringing my bed to a state of cozy warmth. Susannah gave me the blanket and some tips on cycling routes through the neighborhood. I like how locals here are actually interested in helping new folks. And many locals are well versed in the neighborhoods because they've actually lived in London their whole lives. Unlike San Francisco, where there's bitter, supremacist tension between SF "natives" and transplants, London has a blend of born and raised Londoners and more recent arrivals. There's less overt competition between the two groups, maybe because London's more liveable for families than SF. What do I know, though? I've been here a short time and have no kids, but the presence of so many families makes me think it's just more feasible to raise a family here than in somewhat barren SF. (More dogs than kids ... though that trend is reversing in 'hoods like Maternal Heights and Stroller Valley).

As a newcomer I see less competition between Londoners and recent arrivals. And less competition between myself and other new arrivals. In SF there's a bit of snobbery around learning the city's ins and outs, like there's some right of passage in figuring out that some burritos are inedible and that huge hills can be avoided when traveling through neighborhoods. Maybe people here just realize that the clouds, cold, rain, crappy food, circuitous streets, and constants car traffic are so oppressive as to drive a recent transplant insane if little pieces of life don't fall together. Maybe London's just older and more accustomed to temporary visitors than a relatively young city like SF. Anyway, London's less snobby than SF on some fronts, though certainly not all (attire, table "manners", and societal hierarchies all gross me out here).

My Freecycle experiences have been great so far. Susannah encouraged me to say hi if we run into each other in the neighborhood. And she didn't let me leave without asking if I had voted today. I loved it. Too funny. People here really do care about our U.S. election, even if they don't want to admit it, and some of them definitely don't. My new Freecycle friend had her fingers crossed for Obama.

I guess I've been so panicked about my own situation here that I've forgotten to write about the election. I'm not huge on our weak democracy and I'm not much of a reformer. But I do vote, and I hope that you do, too. I take whatever means afforded to me to affect change where I can.

With 22 propositions on the SF ballot, 12 on the state ballot, a supervisorial election, and the forgone conclusion of a Pelosi victory, today's election results will be bittersweet for many of us. Maybe farm animals will get better conditions, but maybe we'll write discrimination into our state constitution. Maybe my choice for D11 supervisor (Avalos - then Knox, then Ramos: go IRV) will get elected, but PG$E will crush public power again. Grrrrr, I hate the initiative process. I know to some it seems like democracy at it's finest, but with our relatively tuned out electorate, it's just a huge fundraising clusterfuck. Like most races, the props generally go to the side with the most money for tree-killing propaganda. Did I mention grrrrrrrr?

Last week on the field study, a couple of people got bent out of shape because they missed a football game that took place during a lecture. I kinda feel like I'm missing out on my favorite contact sport, being so far from the action. It's like having to go to bed on Christmas when you're a kid: Will I wake up to lumps of coal (and off-shore oil rigs) or a stocking stuffed with public power, space for farm animals, and my rights intact? Dunno!

Below are pix of my Freecycle finds and the view out my window, in case you're interested.

Nov 2, 2008

Bedding from Freecycle!

Hurray, I got a duvet, duvet cover, and a pillow with case today from a fellow Freecycler less than a mile away. I rode over with my rucksack, shoved the duvet in, and rode away. I'm going to look at some blankets tomorrow as well. My room is super drafty. Actually, it's more like the window doesn't close at that top.

I might start looking for curtains next!

Nov 1, 2008

Before You Buy a New Cellphone, Consider Coltan in the Congo

If you haven't heard about the long, raging war in the Demcratic Republic of Congo, then you probably haven't heard of coltan. Neither makes big news, and with things like the U.S. election overshadowing all other worldwide happenings, it's no wonder that most people have never heard of this mineral.

Coltan is in cellphones and other electronics. The vast majority of the mineral deposits are in the (DR) Congo, where men hammer with bare hands to remove it for our fancy phones. You won't be surprised to hear that they're paid shit for work in deplorable conditions. There's a short video about coltan miners and the way the mineral factors into war and multi-national companies at this link. You might also find Consumer International's reports on coltan helpful. In general, Consumer International is a good place to start if you find yourself pressed to buy something new.

Oct 29, 2008

Pug puppies in SF and Wells-Next the-Sea

Right now I'm on a field study in Wells-next the-Sea, a small town on the east coast of England. We're doing vegetation transects along dunes and salt marshes to learn a bit about field studies and the hell of statistics. We've been inordinately lucky with the weather: It was supposed to sleet today but it's blue and crisp. Fall is so beautiful here.

Like with our trip to Snowdonia, I'm thrilled to be out of London for a minute. We'll be back on Halloween night though!

In the spirit of Free School and infoshops, my coursemates and I have decided to do some skillshares among ourselves. We nearly unanimously feel that we need more guidance in our course, so we're going to guide each other where we feel the program is lacking. We have to do a lot of group presentation work, so those of us with public speaking experience are going to hold a workshop to help out people who lack that experience. Likewise, the Excel gurus are offering to teach the rest of us the tricks of the clicks.

I'm excited to see the others on the course take to these ideas. While academia tends to generate hierarchical relationships among students (grade rankings, scholarship awards, internship placement), this is an opportunity to focus less on competition and more on mutualism. I much prefer this approach of taking everyone to the desired level of knowledge and skill, rather than thinking that only some of us can achieve the objectives set for us.

Also wanted to mention for my SF Bay area readers that Pooches' Playtime has 10 puppies and a momma dog up for adoption at the moment. Some are pugs and others are mixes, including the mother. Check out the pics here or a short video here. Pooches' Playtime always has foster dogs for adoption so keep them in mind in the future as well.

Oct 18, 2008

Really Really Free Market Saturday, 10/25 Dolores Park ... and Coming to a London Location Soon!

If you're in the Bay, you're encouraged to attend the Really Really Free Market next Saturday, October 25th. RRFM runs from about 12-5 in Dolores Park. Look for the banner under the palm trees on the Dolores St. side, across from 19th.

This SF RRFM will also be a memorial celebration of the life and passions of our friend, Kirsten Brydum. As always, everyone is welcome and encouraged to participate. Though Kirsten was killed nearly a month ago, her spirit will be reflected in the gathering at the market. Kirsten was a core organizer of the monthly event, and her mark on SF RRFM is indelible. As someone far from all of the memorials and wakes that have brought friends together to mourn, I'm glad to know that one day I'll be back at the Really Really Free Market in Dolores Park, where I'm sure to feel the solidarity and positivity that Kirsten poured into that community. And I'll see where our collective creativity collided and all that grew autonomously from it.

We all have something to share. You can bring a teapot, pair of shoes, recipes or seeds. Share a skill or a talent: Play a song or teach origami. Share words and smiles and futures. Leave your money at home. Give because it's something we're born to do, not because you expect anything back. You'll leave with something, even if you go home with empty hands. If you like the Compact, RRFM is a natural procession.

And if you're in London and you want to see RRFM here, then help me find a central, indoor (?) space to put it on. I've looked and haven't found a local RRFM. I could be wrong, but to my knowledge, there is no regular market here. I'd like to bring together at least one, sometime this winter. If you'd like to help, or even just to say that you might be willing to come or tell people about it, then be in touch! My email is available via the profile page. Several of my amazing coursemates have offered to help, having listened to me talk about RRFM and Kirsten. Now that I'm definitely staying for the course (hurray for having a home!), I would like to make this happen.

In related events, my new living situation is sweet. My new housemates are kind and welcoming. Tonight we shared a delicious vegetarian meal after a walk around the neighborhood. I mentioned that I need to find a daypack for my next field study they produced one! They're shuffling a lot of things around as they change their house around to accommodate a third person. This bag may have been destined for the donate pile.

Anyone have thoughts on used wellies? I might try Freecycle, but I hate the idea of riding my bike all over London's 609 square miles in search of grimey boots that might not fit. Maybe I'll go to a shop to determine my wellie size and then hit up Gumtree and Freecycle. Because really, now that I'm stable, there's no excuse for not figuring out how to find things used.
Really. Really. Free.

Oct 15, 2008


I succeeded in finding a room tonight! I've been looking hardcore for weeks but tonight I found something really cool. I'm going to be living with two women in East Dulwich. They have a wonderful house that was their family home, but their kids are off at university. I thought they might be my people because they responded to my ad (Vegetarian Animal Lover Needs a Room) with an email from their dog, Dash. When I read Dash's email, I definitely got my hopes up.

There are cats and a rabbit in addition to Dash. It's going to be very helpful for me to be around so many animals! And the house is actually very quiet. I get the impression that I will be able to work there.

Although this place is about 3 times the size of the House of Green Cheese, it feels a lot like John and Rob's home. Dash instantly reminded me of Hunter, the Perry-Picciotto golden retriever. Dash is a very tall flat coat retriever. But more than the dog similarities, it was the decor that made me feel like I might be in Bernal: The furniture was so comfy and earthy. And it turns out, all used. These ladies are not compacting per se, but they have tried to buy second hand all year. Synchronicity? And they did what we all do during interviews about the Compact. They looked around and said, "yeah, all used". They built their own bookshelves, which climb to the high ceilings, stocked with old and new books of all genres.

I really like them! I move in on Saturday, so I think Sunday will be devoted to catching up in my course, finally.

Oct 13, 2008

Winding wearily through a fabulous network of friends

So my temporary housing runs out tomorrow... Where to next? Well, I'm sending my stuff one way, and myself another. Family folk, Matt and Marie, are taking my stuff in Finsbury Park. I'm not sure where I'll crash tomorrow. Most likely a hostel in Vauxhall. I have an interview down in Brixton tomorrow nite for a room so I don't want to pedal all the way back up to Clapton, where I'm offered a free spot. I think it'd be rude, really.

But I hope to have the housing nailed down by, hmm, well last week really. Luckily I have wonderful friends, supportive people. Though none of them has a truly spare room to offer up, they're willing to give of what they do have, be it time, resources, couches, or a hand moving my crap all over this sprawly town. I look forward to being in a position to give back. Maybe not directly or reciprocally, but in some way, to anyone. I think I miss my self sufficiency and the confidence that comes with it more than the hills of SF, perhaps because I'm certain that the latter still exist but am momentarily doubtful that I'll ever regain the former.

Still, I can't leave before the anarchist bookfair, can I? If I'm still house hunting on Saturday, I am definitely taking the afternoon off for the bookfair. Frankly, if Max hadn't mentioned it off-hand, I'd probably be heading out on Thursday. But given the opportunities presented by the bookfair (maybe finding housemates, but also the opportunity to refresh my brain/spirit), I can't see leaving until Sunday if I must.

In more Compact relevant news, I'm not shopping, either new or used, until I find a home. I've turned some hummus containers into tupperware and it's making my bag burst. That and the extra sugar and detergent that I ended up with after replacing stores in the crash pad. I'm almost ready to ditch the rest of my shit just because I'm sick of hauling it all over London. But I'm going to want those clothes when it gets cold, I think.

Oct 12, 2008

Back from Wales, RRFM, Pumpkin

I spent the past week in Wales looking at ecologically sensitive areas in Snowdonia National Park. Beautiful place, lotsa sheep, teddy bear cows, wiley goats, and some seemingly inbred ponies. It was helpful to get out of London to think a bit more clearly about things.

But now I'm back in London and all is the same. I have two viewings for housing this evening as indeed, I'm still without a place to live. My current crash spot is no longer mine as of Tuesday so I have to work something out or bail on this experience. London is ok and the program is ok, but neither wows me. We'll see how it goes.

In a land far far away - er, I mean San Francisco, the Really Really Free Market is approaching. Last Saturday of the month from 12-5 in Dolores Park, under the palm trees near Dolores at 19th. Check it out in honor of our friend, Kirsten. I truly wish I could be there. If I end up staying in London, I have recruited at least 3 folks to help me put together an RRFM here, but that's a long way off, after housing and papers!

Almost forgot to mention that Pumpkin the wonder pooch has a forever home. After being spayed and vaccinated, my dad dropped her off with Tracey, a rescue worker in Dallas, Georgia. Tracey took Pumpkin as a foster when no one else would. She found her a forever home on her own time, and for that, I'm truly grateful. Pumpkin was a stray for 2 months, then cared for by good folks for about a month. Now she's got a family.

Oct 1, 2008

With Love, Solidarity, and Deep Sadness

Yesterday I learned that kind and amazing Kirsten Brydum was shot to death in New Orleans last weekend. Word trickled back to the Bay Area slowly, and then reached me through a friend. I don't have much to say about Kirsten's death, except the obvious: This is completely fucked up and shouldn't happen to anyone, and particularly not to someone as compassionate and kind as Kirsten. Kirsten's father has started a lovely memorial page that you can find here.

There's lots to say about her life, and all the work Kirsten engaged in, including the Collective Autonomy Tour that took her to New Orleans. As I'm pretty alone in my sadness, here in London, I'm going to write about the woman I knew. The alternative is crying alone, or perhaps in the presence of a friend who didn't know her. For me, this is better.

I met Kirsten at the Really Really Free Market a couple of years ago. We were introduced by our mutual friend, Greg, who knew I was doing the Compact and that Kirsten was very involved in organizing the market. For a while, I only saw Kirsten at the monthly RRFMs, or read her words about the market in the list emails. She always emphasized that it is our market, and encouraged folks to engage. And slowly I started to feel like I was part of the RRFM, always in my own way, which is really really the only way to be a part of such a multi-faceted community.

I got to know Kirsten outside of RRFM, and mostly inside of Station 40, where we both worked on the Dirty Dove Infoshop with a beautiful band of other people. During the sewing basics workshop last fall, Kirsten taught me how to patch my own pants, using a sewing machine. She laughed just enough about my fear of the machine eating my fingers to loosen me up and make me receptive. Kirsten was primely suited to be my teacher in this skillshare. I hope I taught her something about SF ecology or kitty wound care in return.

Kirsten worked really hard for a lot of projects like Dirty Dove, that emphasized alternative economies or education. She put her energy into her principles, inspiring many of us to do the same. And she fleshed out those principles, addressing economics with RRFM, education with Dirty Dove, and even food with Access Cafe. Kirsten was engaged in a cross country journey, collating resources of alternative institutions, hoping "to network with people and connect projects" and "to facilitate research and resource sharing". Horribly enough, she was killed while trying to see the best of our communities.

I'm not going to see Kirsten smiling in sunny Dolores Park again, or help her with Shiloh, her cat. Our community has lost the great brilliance of her piercing brown eyes and whipsmart mind. To any friends reading this, I love you. And I'm so sorry to not be there with you.
in solidarity and with love and sadness,

Sep 27, 2008

Portobello Market with Matt

Today I went to the Portobello Market with Matt, a friend of mine from the States, who lives here as well. It was so good to see him, cuz he's family in that he's my bro in law's best friend and we've done loads of holidays together, etc. We browsed and caught up on each others' lives, sharing handmade pastries and some coffee.

I was a little loopy from benadryl: I got stung by a very gnarly bee on the way to meet Matt. The wild is everywhere. Within seconds my finger was ready to burst. But I popped some benadryl as my breath got wheezy and my throat dried out, I was fine in 20 minutes beesides the sleepiness. Silly bee, landing on my chest like that. Forcing himself to deposit what was likely his death blow in defence of my swat. I felt bad for both of us.

But I digress! Turns out Matt and I have similar clothing styles. Bring on the button down long sleeve shirts, snaps are even better. And there were lots to choose from, even used. We both kept picking up shirts similar to ones we already have. I probably picked up 3 red v neck sweaters in contemplation. I have a lovely red v neck that is pretty much my favorite sweater of all time.

Alas we both left with no purchases. I purposefully came with fewer than 10 pounds. Oh, and Matt found 10 pounds while we were walking. I felt better about letting him buy me handmade pastries and coffee after that.

I liked a lot of the market. I even went back after saying bye to Matt in an effort to score closing market bargains. Great plan, it turned out. I turned my 7 pounds into about 15 pounds of fresh vegetables, fruits, and a vegan stew and rice dish that I ate on my walk "home". I was a little confused that there was imported produce. I thought that the produce stalls would all be local but that was not the case. But some stuff had stickers and I just asked about other items to get local produce. British strawberries are yummy. The Cox apples look great too.

Back tracking for a second, I went to Critical Mass last night. It was not nearly the joyous cycling event I had anticipated. The ride was almost as intense and aggression riddled as the commuting I've done here. I heard and saw the aftermath of a taxi hitting a cyclist, which destroyed his back wheel. Saw another taxi driver assault a cyclist. And saw a cyclist do something pretty naughty (though not to a human) after a driver sprayed him with washer fluid. I also had a really hilarious conversation with protesting cab riders who were out for one brother's "stag night" and need "to get to the strippers NOW".

I've had my fair share of incidents at SF Critical Mass so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I just thought we might gain some speed at some point, but we kept getting bogged down in conflict. Seriously, I'm a proponent of moving on if you can't actually help the situation. But whatever. I met a few rad folk and ran into a human I'd met before.

I want to recommend the North West Earth Institute after getting an email from an awesome librarian who recommended the site to me. There's a course on voluntary simplicity that might interest Compactors in the NW. I like that NWEI is offering chances for folks to address things like diet, simplicity, etc at different scales (individual, workplace, community). It looks like a good resource on many levels. Thanks, Kathy, for sending such a cool tip and the encouragement.

Sep 26, 2008

Freshers Fayre and Diesel Exhaust

I think I'm on track with school at this point. I met with my professor, signed a lot of forms, and got the basics on the course. I then went to the "Freshers Fayre". Now this was about 40% great and about 60% consumerist. I loved seeing the different clubs/societies that are a part of the campus and even signed up for a few email lists (Disarm UCL, UCL Union Stop the War, Friends of Palestine). I turned down free vita water and plastic bags from Waistrose (?), a fancy grocery store chain that I bet is something like Whole Paycheck. I also got my left knee bandaged. Those first aid folks were totally excited to see my injuries from Wednesday's moment of grace. I had on (as ever) convertible pants so it was perfectly easy to get a proper bandage put on the mess I've made. Very cosy cycling now.

Speaking of cycling, diesel fuel is gross! I know it's generally used more efficiently by car engines, but it tastes disgusting and activates my mild asthma. Those tiny particles definitely get into my lungs when I'm cycling hard. Today my chest started to hurt and I thought I was going to have to stop for a break. I think I'm going to get one of those fancy masks that I see about 1 of 15 cyclists wearing. They make you look pretty weird and I bet they're hot, but my throat feels all weird and my lungs just don't feel right. As in SF, bikes and buses are constantly vying for the same spots in the road, so I'm aerobically sucking in a heavy load of exhaust. Ugh.

I've read mixed reviews about face masks, but I'll probably try one. Biking is the best way to get around, but only if you can breathe. And believe me, no part of London has challenged me in terms of gradient, so I'm not huffing or puffing because it's a work out. This place is like Kansas next to San Francisco. And the traffic is so dense that speeds aren't often very high either, at least during the day. Besides, I'm constantly wiping black sweat off my face, so I don't even want to know what my lungs look like.

Sep 24, 2008


Rough couple of days! Met London's finest tonight, just after getting on course after an hour plus of lost-ness around 12:3o AM in way way way out east London. I moved on Tuesday from South London to West London. That really doesn't explain my lost-ness. Luckily this motorcycle cop was pretty chill about my running a red light and turning down the wrong side of the street (knowingly on both accounts). He actually sent me on my way saying, "You'll get it. Try not to commit any more offences tonight". If only.

All in all, the moving of my meager wares yesterday was a nightmare. Two of my bags are a bit heavy. And today, though I've gotten no word (as in ZERO communication) from the geography department of UCL, I find out that I've missed a welcoming event for the department and a lecture on environmental ethics. The department secretary basically told me that I needed to turn up or be chucked out. I was pretty insulted given that I DID turn up. I enrolled. I paid. I got no timetable. I got no induction schedule.

In my dumbass efforts to be a patient United Statesian, I fucked myself a bit. The lecture, by the accounts of the coursemates that I've met, is nothing that I haven't covered in Geog 610 at SFSU so I'm not stressed. More worrying are those freakish question marks by my name on some lists that I've seen. How can I turn over about 8 thousand dollars and they dunno I'm here?

Thank god I met nice humans on my course. They rock. They probably think I'm a nut because I pulled a classic "rachel" move tonight by tripping over a curb, scraping my knees and even ripping the left knee of one of a NEW pair of REI pants. I bled all the hell over the place just before we went into this departmental social, changed my pants with a human curtain on a street and even bled on those, but it was kinda dark so it looked like water. Whatever, that's me. I'm klutzy. It wasn't as glamourous as that huge scar on my left shin from playing capture the flag on Bernal in the dark after the Bicycle Music Festival last summer, but it was one of those moments when I feel pretty standard and other folks make a fuss. And these poor people have to go on field studies with me!

Seems buying new shit isn't for me. Cuz if I buy it new, I either have to return it or totally fuck it up within a few uses. What was I thinking?! Since I ruined a pair of new, blue tennis shoes in the ditch behind our house when I was six, my mom's always said that I'm "hard on clothes". It's true. Time for another patch!

On a brighter note, I went to the Hackney City Farm yesterday. It rocks. I met a nice pig, who let me scratch her butt for ages. My hands felt like they'd been through a spa treatment, so soft and smoothe afterwards. I'm going back to shovel some poop tomorrow. Or today, it seems. Can you believe that darn pig's name is Bella? There are two special Bella's in my life already. Bella the pit and Bella the shepherd. I miss 'em both. My good girls. I'd rather be scratching their butts but I guess I'll have to settle for this pig.

Sep 22, 2008

"What about a Toaster?"

I met with four people on Saturday to talk about starting a new vegetarian home. Many things come up when 5 folks who've never met sit down to talk about living together. We talked about geography, money, kitchen space, growing things, and the calendar. It was such an incredible relief to meet these folks, who I instantly liked and wanted to know.

When I tentatively said, "Think we could get a garden ... and grow stuff?" I heard enthusiasm and encouragement. Last Friday I met with folks in a house with a great garden. When I asked if I could grow some vegetables, the master tenant actually said, "We don't really have the climate for that in England." Those girls were also vegetarian, but I'd prefer that the vegetarians that I live with not assume that produce magically appears in supermarkets. And the new veg house kids don't.

I hope it works out with these guys. As the broke ass student of the bunch, I have the lowest budget. I also don't give a shit where we live or how big my room is, given that I have a place to rest my head and my trusty wheels. In my meager week in London, I think I like South London (the Californian in me so longs to call it SoLo) better than North London (NoLo). But I'd rather live with loveable humans than trip over geography of which I know so little.

Given my lack o' budget, I mentioned that I don't buy new stuff to the new veg house kids. I wanted to be clear that if some sort of furnishing became involved in the move process, that I would not chip in on new items. It was hilarious! "What about a Toaster?" was quickly followed by "What about a kettle?". I admitted that I've never had a new toaster and that my only kettle was a gift (and not the kinda kettle they mean anyway). I think that toast and tea might be deemed Compact health items in England. They're both way more important here than in the US.

I personally think the toaster that Blake and I scored used and free about 7 years ago is as good as any I've seen. And I can't imagine needing a new kettle since it seems that every housing ad I've read says, "includes all mod cons: wash machine, kettle, etc". But I could see a scarcity on the used market for goods like kettles and toasters here. Dunno, guess I'll hope we find a furnished flat.

For now I'm crashing for free. My English friend, Max, is really the best. She's made this transition so do-able. I've been in one place for a week and leave tomorrow for another where I'm good for at least 3 weeks. Hopefully the housing will have come through by then! (That said, if you're reading this and you know some radical vegetarian kids who need a roommate in their cheap rent spot, do pass my info along!... in case the new veg house falls apart).

Sep 20, 2008

Be Forgiving of Yourself and Others

I got some nice responses/comments on the last post, one of which expressed appreciation that I could admit that it's difficult to hold perfectly to the ideals that I profess. In return, I appreciate that sentiment. It reminded me of a sticker a rad girl had on her bike a few years back: Be Forgiving of Yourself and Others.

I think it's really important not to trip out on perfection. I'm a bit type A, so I can sometimes be very demanding of myself and the folks I love in terms of principles. I am constantly learning about acceptance and not being hard on myself for straying from principles that I espouse. My dad has always cautioned me about sweating the small things. And I agree to the sweat part: though I continue to consider the small things (like packaging, food transport distance, water re-use possibilities), I try to put those thoughts toward creativity rather than criticism, for either myself or others.

The Compact is really functional in that way. We started this as friends so there was no getting kicked out of the challenge. It's fun in part because it's realistic that we'll falter at some point and most of us are a bit competitive. So even though I shopped at REI like a freak, and I bought a new cellphone (which I'm sure I'll pass on before returning to the States in leiu of the chewy antennae phone), I'm still allowed to talk about anti-consumption issues. I'm still a Compactor even if I need a month off the hardcore challenge.

I had to tell some potential future housemates today that I wouldn't consider buying new appliances/furniture if we needed to furnish the hypothetical flat. "What about a toaster?" one girl said. Of course I responded that I've never had a new toaster. I also said that I think toast is a lot more important here than it is in the US! But my used toaster always worked just fine. I'm sure Blake's still using it to toast his frozen, high protein, Alvarado St bread. But in reality, I can't afford to help furnish a flat even if the wares are used. Oi, still room hunting....

OH, I keep forgetting to mention biking in London is crazy hectic! But I kinda love it. I'm not a 'fraidy cyclist so the intensity is mostly ok. I'm sure when the rain hits (it's been deceptively gorgeous for the 5 days I've been here) and my brain gets burned from school that I'll be bitching about all the bendy/double decker buses, taxis, and silly drivers. For now I'm taking advantage of my free time by trying to navigate simply by instinct between destinations. I'm doing ok. On Wednesday I thought I might go insane, but by today I feel fairly confident about my orientation.

I gotta get back to the room hunt. Some freak just tried to run a stupid scam on me (400 pound deposit before viewing the room, right). I'm so ready to get my crap outta my bags!

Sep 19, 2008

London Compacting and Other Adventures

Ok, so I made it to London. So far I'm excited to be here but a bit anxious about finding a good home. I'm mid search and have met some really nice people, but probably not the best fits ever. My last interview was with a banker who talked of the cheap clothes (Ralph Loren) in Miami as her passion for the US. I was complementing that with talks of the food co-op I'm interested in and the bike workshop at the local infoshop. 

But all in all we actually like each other! So we'll see. I'm going to some other places today... here's hoping that my fabulous flatmates are in my immediate future. For now I'm crashing with some radical folk in South London. I want to stay down here but am open to other areas. I really like the infoshop down here though... would love to get involved. 

I've been a piss poor Compactor. I've officially decided (as officially as one can be about the Compact) that I'm taking this month off of the Compact. I did that crazy REI haul before I left the States and have bought a new cell phone here. I tried to just unlock my US phone, which was a hand-me-down from my sister. The guy at the shop told me that was a waste of money.
 Indeed it was cheaper to buy a new, more reliable phone. (The old one required me to bite the antennae to adjust it after half the casing had fallen off. )

But I'll be back to my Compacty ways in about 10 days or so, I'm sure. It's not like I can afford to buy a bunch of new shit. I'm just waiting for my bank to fail and my meager tuition savings to disappear. I paid an installment yesterday and felt relieved to have gotten the money from the bank. Are we watching the fall of capitalism? 

Sep 13, 2008

Pumpkin Update + My Adventures with Shopping

Hurray for Pumpkin, she's found a foster home. How I wish I could say she's found a forever home, but for now, I'm just glad that I don't have to put her down. I really worked every angle for this dog and it was coming down to the wire (I'm leaving in 2 days!). After speaking with several folks in various aspects of rescue and animal care, I was resolved not to put Pumpkin into the Animal Control facility, but to put her down quietly and humanely if I couldn't find her a home.

I never stopped looking for a place for her. And thankfully, my inquiries to local rescues were passed along numerous channels, and finally, a dedicated dog lover named Tracy is taking Pumpkin into her home until she can get her adopted. My parents are taking Pumpkin to our vet on Thursday for vaccinations and spay surgery so that she's ready for adoption when Tracy takes her. Tracy volunteers with a shelter that can't fit Pumpkin in right now. They just got 13 puppies that are only 3 weeks old. It just doesn't stop out here.

I did some hardcore, anti-Compact shopping at REI on Thursday. I got some rain gear (coat and pants), a winter coat, two pairs of utility pants, and shoes. I've already had to return the shoes because they just don't fit. Chick shoes are so narrow. So I guess I have to buy shoes in London. Joy. That was the first crazy shopping spree I've had in nearly 3 years. It was weird. I was so contemplative over the choices. Damn did I try on a lot of raincoats!

Every thing I bought was on sale except the raincoat and shoes. My mom was going to give me a winter coat but it really really really isn't my style. It's actually one of those San Francisco coats that people buy when they come to SF in the summer unprepared. I wasn't sure that I could sport the SF coat in London without feeling like a total weirdo.

In returning the shoes today, I tried to find a proper size. No luck. Instead I just got to do a whole lot of gnarly driving. I'm so ready for a city again. Sprawl sucks. All of my romanticizing a life in Atlanta seems over for the moment. It's been priceless to be with my parents for these last 3 weeks. My mom's older and she hates to travel. So I've considered moving back here to have a better relationship with her. I'm just not sure I could handle the ever widening roads and replacement of trees with strip malls.

I'm excited about London, but daunted. I still don't have a place to live. I really don't want to get wrapped up in a crappy roommate situation. I'm sure I'll get it all worked out. For now, I'm trying to be stoked about my program. Trying to learn metric conversions, considering a new tattoo on my forearm for this purpose. Looking forward to wireless access, walking for coffee, and biking!

Sep 10, 2008

Shopping in My Mom's Closet

My mom is a garage saling addict. She buys soooo much stuff that she doesn't need, that when I got home this time, all of the closets were bursting, the shed was full, and one bathtub was filled 5 feet high with used clothes, pillows, blankets, and rugs. It was scary. Of course, this is mostly Compact friendly shopping, but the clutter is insane.

My dad hates it and I kinda freaked out, so my mom is doing one of her big purges. I should mention that the true impetus of the purge was neither my dad's protestations at the state of his home or my anxious assertions that my mom must be lonely. Though I had tried to tie her consumption tenets of her faith, it was really a nicely time sermon by her preacher about 10 days ago that got her started. He spoke about service and sharing and suddenly my mom is all about it. Halellujah.

I've always said you can't dictate people's motivations for conservation. The Compact's openness about motivation has facilitated it's growth. I hear from people who want to consume less because of ecological concerns, financial realities, religious beliefs, moral considerations, anti-capitalist leanings, family relationships, etc. So I don't approach my mom with The Story of Stuff. That might renew my own resolve, but it would probably just overwhelm my mom with negativity and the enormity of consumption.

I was trying to appeal to my mom using her passion for Church. I messed up when I basically said that "waste" wasn't in line with the teachings of Jesus, who was radical in his sharing. I also commented on the stewardship theory within Christianity, which dictates that we care for the planet. It was the wrong way to go. It was negative and she needed something positive. Sounded like her preacher talked mostly about how sharing with people less fortunate was a joyous thing. I guess I've never learned from my own experiences with Church: Focusing on the sin, the negative, the ways we're bad, is not motivating. Emphasising the kinder, more beautiful aspects of Christianity was always more inspiring to me, and apparently to Mom, as well.

I would personally like to take a backhoe to her closet and scoop 2/3rds out and just dump it into a thrift store. She's more methodical. As she pulls stuff out she tries to get me to take hats, shoes, coats, and the weirdest socks you've ever seen. Some stuff is tempting, other stuff I have to find a nice way to refuse. Luckily I have limited space in my bags and that seems to be working very well.

My sister was helping me pack back in SF and rolled her eyes when I considered taking a pair of holey house shoes to London. "You can get a pair from Mom, I'm sure". Indeed the pair I was contemplating had been a gift from Mom a few years back. Erica was right. And I love the house shoes that Mom gave me! They're so comfy, warm, well treaded, and free! I think I'm taking a coat too. It's not my style at all but I don't have a warm coat and they're expensive so being picky isn't really an option. There's a wasps' nest in the shed so we can't get up in there but I'm really interested to see if there are other warm things that I can scrounge up there. But wasps are scary so my scrounging may be limited to in house adventures.

HMMM, I am going to have to buy shoes. Anyone got any recommendations for a good walking shoe that keeps your feet fairly dry in rain? I've got boots for rain but I don't love cycling in them so I'm looking for a reasonable shoe. I'm not finding much since most sport shoes are so well ventilated. Shoes are a bit of a health item for me, formerly a professional exception for my dog walking. I have to wear custom orthotics and stability shoes for my injured knee. But I don't want wet feet all the time. I'm stumped but looking.