Saturday, May 8, 2010

Little house in the sprawling suburbs

When Laura Ingalls was 10 years old she – or anyone else in her family - could have told you exactly how everything in her home worked… and her family would have made 99% of the things that were part of their life… from their home itself to the bread they ate for dinner… everything had at one time been a part of nature that they had used their own hands and ingenuity to transform into something that sustained their lives… it’s so natural and amazing… I think that was supposed to be the stopping point for technology. With that situation… you really could lose it all – your house your possessions all your money and just start over and be fine in a couple years. The only things they really could not make themselves were glass, their gun, nails and maybe their pots and pans… but people have been melting down metal and sand to make those things forever so I’m sure if they really wanted to and lived near a mine and/or a beach they could make those things on their own too.

I cannot even being to explain most of the things in Tony’s and my house were made… I would guess that machines spit out about 90 % of everything we own. Even fairly simple concepts like electricity in its most basic form – a light bulb- are too much for me to really comprehend – I do understand that a light bulb works because the filament inside is superheated and gives off light… I just don’t really follow how the electricity is created, stored and brought to me by PG&E. I think there was a quote in Little Town on the Prairie about how” no one really know s how electricity works but we know how to capture it now” (not a direct quote by the way – just a vague recollection). Even photographs or radios- technology that has been around for quite a while (by today’s standards) boggles my mind. It might as well be magic; I just have no idea how you can capture images with light and broadcast sounds thousands of miles through wires… and not even through wires now. There are a few super geniuses out there (or maybe a lot of super geniuses) who really get that stuff and could make it from scratch on their own… and they should have that technology in their home though, but I really feel like many of the world’s problems come from the fact that people all have these things in their home that they cannot make on their own… The technology that is supposed to make our lives so much “simpler” just ends up making them so complicated that everyone barely has time to have a life anymore…. We want these things that we don’t understand – and can’t make ourselves so we need to buy them with money (or steal them)… but let’s assume we go the money route - We need a job to earn money … oh but wait… how will we get ourselves to the job there are so many people that we can’t all work locally, so I guess we need a car or a bus pass or whatever to get to work – more money- and if we’re off working at the job how will we have time to grow our food… I guess we won’t… we’ll buy that too – we need more money – oh and by the way who is going to watch the kids while we’re earning money for the food and the car… and that other thing we wanted to buy with the money we wanted in the first place… hmm I guess we’ll have to pay someone to do that – more money… and in the whole swirl and mess of all of that we all become focused on money rather than the actual things that make our lives possible... and we feel like we need all of this technology because everyone else has it and commercials make it seem vital to happiness… but the things that are really vital to happiness and survival – food and family and friends are things that get put on the back burner most of the time.

I see my parents and my brother only a few times a year now… and most of my really good friends live hundreds if not thousands of miles away. I call them and email but its not the same. I spend 10-12 hours a day at my office working – then waiting for Tony to give me a ride… and I am there all by myself so I really only get a few hours of actual human interaction a day… and once Tony and I get home – after I make dinner I am usually too tired and stressed to do much besides sit on the opposite side of the couch from Tony and watch TV (often while I surf the internet on my laptop and hesurfs the internet on his) … is that life ?

Our society is so fragile and codependent- Hardly anyone has seeds enough to grow food to feed their whole household… for the next year so if we didn’t have the money and capability (transportation etc) to buy food we’d all pretty much starve… we rely so much on the technology that we have and the strangers whose job it is to fill their certain role that makes society work- and yet we don’t even have time for each other while we all go off to earn money we leave our families and our friends behind.

The Ingalls made everything themselves. Tony and I are responsible for making less than 0.1 % of the things in our home… even when I make bread I make it with flour that was grown hundreds of miles away, milled somewhere else , treated with chemicals, packaged with packaging materials from god knows where and shipped to the Costo from which I purchased it… and that is probably simplifying the whole scenario… It is impressive –or at least mind boggling the technology that exists in the modern world… but I just don’t feel like things are really “better” and although people seem to be frowning in the pictures during “little house on the prairie times” after reading Laura’s books I know that they really weren’t unhappy. – they had a purpose and they had a handle on the world. Things now are just so out of control and so so interconnected… everyone is born with the same potential, as the Ingalls were, to create a life for themselves out of only what is found in Nature… that would be awesome… once you are exposed to the modern world though I think its kind of hard to get out there and figure out how to function without technology… people have done it I supposed… the Amish still live that simple and satisfying life… and I read a book about a guy who went and lived in an Amish community for a couple years and he did fine… I think they had a machine that bailed hay and or threshed wheat or something so I:m not really sure if that totally counts though… anyway, people act as though Amish are psychos or at least a little odd… but I think they’re awesome… except for whatever oppression they have towards woman and weird religious stuff. I think in the perfect world there would be life like on the prairie but without the religious stuff getting in the way…. How much pressure would it take away if you didn’t have to worry about money… If money was just something that brought unnecessary luxuries and you realized that they were UNECESSARY… I mean hell… I guess I do live in that world where these things are unnecessary it’s just that I, like pretty much everyone else, feel like I need these things to survive… but If I could find someone to teach me how to make a log cabin and dig a well then I guess I’d be all set… the one thing that makes it seem like only a crazy person would shun techno is medicine… the fact that we can save a family from all dying of small pox or scarlet fever or whatever… that is nice… sickness was a lot more serious on Laura Ingalls’s prairie… but I wonder if we could just take our new knowledge of medicine and make it work without having to use so much high tech stuff. Obviously it wouldn’t work as well without lasers and defibrillators, but we could probably do pretty ok … right? –well maybe not, medicine is one of those things that is way over my head (like lights and cameras).

when I think about where the world will go from here I can only hope that somehow we’ll start to go backwards towards that…maybe we can take our new knowledge of medicine and our ideas of equality and compassion for nature and go back to a simpler life… maybe… I don’t really see that happening, even I would be hard pressed to give up the technologies in my life… after all I’m “writing” down my thoughts about how I’d like to get back to nature by typing on a lap top in my centrally heated home whilst I recline on our lazy boy sofa. I wonder if I could do it for a week though… just totally give up technology … I wonder if I could get Tony to do that … I think they did that on an episode of I Love Lucy and it went HILARIOUSLY wrong… but I already know how to bake bread without it magically expanding to the length of my whole kitchen and pinning me against the sink so I think I could manage it… I wonder if I could get Tony on board… I guess not he has to drive to his job where he works on computers… I suppose I have to be on a computer for my job too… and I guess my bike really isn’t natural… although I think its allowable… maybe we could do it on a weekend… or I could Tony probably would not be on board…It would have to be during the summer though when I had more food in my garden… Ok Memorial day weekend… that’s when I’m going for it…maybe depending on what’s growing I wish Tony could be on board with that kind of life but he is a little tech child and gets anxious when he is too far from a computer… I guess that’s why he needed a pocket sized computer phone that can be with him always… blah. What is the world coming to?

I try to “be the change I want to see” though. I have my garden… and I make my own bread (mostly) by hand now (I can’t help that I love my kitchen aid mixer) and I bike to work and I am hoping to be able to save enough money to move some where that I can afford to be home enough to raise my kids rather than sending them to day care and that is what life is about… being with your family and having a life that you feel like you are a part of and can be proud of. I guess I can satisfy myself with that until the rest of the world decides to start winding things back to the way they should be. Hopefully most people will eventually get on board.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Travels through Podunk

We used to have an electric stapler at my office… well actually that is to say, we used to have an electric stapler that worked at my office… now we have one that doesn’t work, so after the electric stapler stopped shooting out staples, about 4-5 months ago, I went back to using an old fashioned stapler – with an arm that you have to push down on to staple things. Pushing down whilst holding a paper underneath the stapler arm is a little harder than just holding papers under the stapler and having it do the pushing down on its own, but I keep myself in pretty good shape, so I’ve managed so far. My stapler upped the ante a little over 2 weeks ago though, when I started having a little trouble ramming the unused staples to the front of the unused staple chamber (Don’t I have such an amazing vocabulary when it comes to the stapler anatomy… I think I must have a secret dream of working for Swingline … Swingline makes staplers… THE BEST STAPLERS… unlike the staplers that we have at my office… the piece of crap on my desk is made by “Bates” who the hell are they ?… they obviously could use someone like me at their factory to tell them about the proper anatomy of a stapler…).

Anyway, The lazy rammer spring added a third step to the stapling process… not only did I have to hold the papers under the arm AND push down with the stapler… now I had to tap the nose of the stapler on my desks a couple times (to help slide the unused staples forward) before moving onto the aforementioned stapling procedures… on Monday though, stapling at the Menlo Park Shamrock office just got a little too Podunk even for me… ‘cause the spring in my stapler wore out completely, so now to staple something I have to open up the staple chamber, physically push the staples to the front with my finger… or a pen… I prefer using a pen ‘cause its no fun when the staple chamber snaps shut on my fingers… so now to staple something I have to ram the staples to the front, tap the nose of the stapler (on my now dimpled) desktop, gather the papers together and then push down… AND THEN I do the two table taps, get the papers together and push down on the damn arm… so at this point I think at this point it is actually easier (and safer) to go without the stapler entirely and just install the individual staples to my paperwork by hand… or maybe I’ll get a new stapler… I think that our Xerox machine is set up to add a stapler that would actually staple things as I print them… so then I wouldn’t even have to gather the papers together it would be 0 step stapling… God what opulence that would be ! I think I will just have Jose get me a Swingline next time he’s at office depot though.

Another kinda Podunk thing happened to me on the way to work today. I was riding along on my bicycle just about to start onto the Dumbarton bridge (which is about 2-3 miles from my office) when my pedal stopped turning… “weird” I thought to myself as I awkwardly continued along as best I could: peddling fine with my right food and fumbling to keep my left foot balanced on it’s pedal as it circled around…It was like trying to stand still on a log in the river… just very unnatural, and just when I was starting to get a system down, the left pedal just fell clean off. I could kind of see that might be coming, so I just casually stopped my bike, walked back, picked up the pedal and screwed it back on… “Phew problem solved”. It was too easy. It was like I went around putting pedals on my bike all the time … so I got back on my bike and for about 15 seconds I was sailing along thinking I am just super handy dandy and should have my own bike fixin’ show or something… and then the pedal again stopped turning and again fell off. “Hmm maybe I didn’t screw it in right the first time” I thought, so I went and grabbed my pedal out of the road and squatted down on the right side of my bike to inspect how that pedal was managing NOT to fall off. From what I could tell, it seemed to be screwed in the same way as I had just screwed in the left pedal and I don’t know how many ways there can be to screw in a pedal, so I slapped the left pedal back in the same exact way this time being sure that it was as tight as I could possibly make it. Still though, about 25 seconds later it stopped turning… and fell off…

At this point, I figured since I was only a couple miles from my office, and I would be going downhill for the second half of the bridge, I might as well just ride it the rest of the way with one pedal and fix the problem later on… so I rode a few miles today with only one pedal… and I got a few “what’s wrong with this picture” looks from other bikers, but by the time I got here I was pretty good at using the little nub that comes out of the crank as a pedal and I was even a little early to the office… I must say though, it required a lot more effort to be constantly kicking the crank nub rather than just being able to rest my foot on the pedal. (sorry I think I have much better terms for stapler anatomy than bike anatomy) I never really thought about how important pedals are before… or how important it is that they turn as you push them, but it is really important… and I guess the answer to the age old questions… “ how many Jillian’s does it take to screw in a bicycle pedal” is > 1.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My Left Pinkie

My co worker, Jose, bought bagels last Saturday and he said that I could have one whenever I wanted, so yesterday I decided to take him up on it... but, there were only 4 bagels and I didn't wan to be overly greedy by having a whole one myself, so I decided to just have a half. Being the great conservationist that I am I figured that I should not get a plate or the table dirty by cutting the bagel on a solid surface. Instead I thought I'd save the water that it would take to wash a plate or the table and just hold the bagel over the trash can and saw through it with the extremely dull bread knife that we keep at my office... needless to say my super conversational intentions resulted in the senseless waste of the several blood soaked napkins and bandages that I used to try to damn the river of blood that was rushing out of my partially severed pinkie finger after I failed at cutting the bagel without a cutting board . I guess partially severed might be a bit (a tiny bit) of an exaggeration but there did seem to be guts oozing out of my finger along with the blood... it was really quite gross and disturbing.

I think overall it was a positive experience though... I now have the motivation I need to look more seriously into furthering my culinary aspirations by finding a knife skills class... or at the very least I'm going to look into watching a you tube video or something about knife skills ... and also from now on I'm going to think more seriously about tearing breads and similar products in half rather than using a knife whenever that is possible... but I think I have also gained a much deeper appreciation for my left pinkie and all that it does for me...

I never really thought about it before, but a lot of the really good letters on my key board happen to be over there in left-pinkie- ville... not to mention "caps lock" and my favorite shift key... hell i didn't even realize that there was another shift key over there by my right pinkie until just now when I looked down to see what letters were over by my left pinkie. Every a and q in this blog entry... and every other blog entry I've ever done have been brought to you by my good old left pinkie. and every symbol and capital letter have been as well.

Another thing that I have realized since I took it upon myself to cut open my finger is how easily your blood can be rerouted within your body. Every time I make a sudden movement or clench any muscle on my body, now my blood just seems to swish around until it finds itself right there In my left pinkie. A second ago, for example, when I was reaching down with my left hand to pick up a fallen post if from the floor all of the blood in the right side of my body seemed to make a B line for my left had there by making my wounded pinkie throb and ache and sting- just a little.

I must say though, I do think my body is doing a great job of putting things back together right . The informatory response has been really tremendous. So many good little white blood cells have rushed into my pinkie that it's felt like a little heater ever since I cut it... in fact so many of my little immune system warriors are on the scene right now that I can barley feel my left pinkie at all its just so jam packed with goodness. I think I've blogged about it before, but I just really have a great immune system. I know that sounds arrogant, but I think that the very fact that my clumsy mind has not managed to kill me off yet speaks volumes of the greatness of my immune system.

SO in summation Jill + Knife + good intentions = Jill - left pinkie... almost

Monday, January 4, 2010

The start of another year

I rang in the new year at my parents place in Oxnard. My friend Megan slept over on new years eve and we watched TV and gave ourselves facials and just chatted and hung out. It was nice. I haven't had a chance to hang out with Megan alone much since I started dating Tony and it felt very low key with no pressure to have to go out and do something like it seems to when one of us makes a trip to see the other. It felt like we were roommates again. ( I had lived with Megan in San Francisco for about a year when I first moved to the Bay Area).

Megan said that she wanted to sleep in on New Year's Day... and since she usually sleeps until 11:00 AM or later I figured I would have the better part of New Years to myself. I decided I would take that time to try to do something nice for my parents.

We had had a fire in the fire place on New Years eve, so when I woke up on New Years day I got dressed and headed over to the beach (about a block from my parents house) to find some drift wood to replace what I had burned. It was a gorgeous morning ! When I got to the beach I could see the Channel Islands, which are about 30 miles off the coast of Oxnard, clearer than I had ever seen them before. I could even make out some of the larger trees and bushes on the island. Normally there is so much fog and haze that you can't even tell there are Islands across the water at all.

After enjoying the view for a minute I got to my task at hand - the firewood. It didn't take me long to spot a perfect log just at the edge of the surf. It was big enough that if I chopped it up it would build 2 fires for my parents, but it didn't seem to big to carry. I hoisted the log on my shoulders like a yolk and carried it back to my parents house. By the time I got there my sandy wet shoulders told me that this was not going to be immediately useful as fire wood, so I set the log in my parents garage to dry out, changed into a dry sweat shirt and headed back to the beach to look a little farther up the sand for some DRY firewood (this time I had a camera in hand - to get a photo of the lovely channel Islands).

Only about 10 or 15 minutes had passed since I had just left the beach, but already a haze had began to from and the view of the islands was much more obscure than it had been on my first trip. Though, the islands were little more than a dark outline at that point, I took a picture anyway, just to prove to myself (or anyone else who might doubt it) that there were in fact islands off the coast of Oxnard shores. I had to walk a little farther to find any decent sized driftwood in the dry sand, but I finally came upon a few pieces that looked like they would make for a couple of good fires. There were to longish pieces of wood and 3-4 small ones. The whole load combined was much lighter than the first log that I had carried, but it was much more awkward to carry. I ended up shoving the two longer pieces of wood under my arms and balancing the smaller ones on top like a primitive forklift.

Surprisingly no one looked twice at me as I ambled back to my parents house. I guess the neighbors are used to seeing this sort of thing from my father though. He is always ready to carry a good piece of driftwood home for a fire... or decorative garden ornament. I must say there is something very satisfying about hauling your own firewood home. It's a good practical down home work out... my feeling of satisfaction was somewhat diminished after I set down my second load of wood though and I realized that there had been dog shit all over one of the logs and it was not on my sweat shirt... but overall I still felt like I'd accomplished something.

I wanted to keep the productive feeling going, so I changed my shirt... again and made myself a pumpkin curry for lunch which I thought was quite tasty... Megan woke up just as I was finishing mine, so I felt a little guilty that I hadn't waited for her to eat lunch, but there was plenty to go around. We had a lazy roommate style afternoon and then I took Megan back home to Thousand Oaks. All and all it was a pretty uneventful day, but I thought it was a good start to a new year.