On why you shouldn’t lie to kids and the human condition. Thanks Ernest Cline, for writing my new favorite book. I can barely begin to describe how much I loved reading this book. (Ready Player One, for those not making the connection that the title of this post is the title of Cline’s first novel.) This passage was one I thought some of you might appreciate as well. But if you are geeky or grew up in the 80s or love sci fi and fantasy or video games, oh man, go read the whole thing right away. Huzzah.
The worst thing about being a kid was that no one told me the truth about my situation. In fact, they did the exact opposite. And, of course, I believed them, because I was just a kid and I didn’t know any better. I mean, Christ, my brain hadn’t even grown to full size yet, so how could I be expected to know when adults were bullshitting me?
So I swallowed all of the dark ages nonsense they fed me. Some time passed. I grew up a little, and I gradually began to figure out that pretty much everyone had been lying to me about pretty much everything since the moment I emerged from my mother’s womb.
I wish someone had just told me the truth right up front, as soon as I was old enough to understand it. I wish someone had just said:
“Here’s the deal, Wade. You’re something called a ‘human being.’ That’s a really smart kind of animal. Like every other animal on this planet, we’re descended from a single-celled organism that lived millions of years ago. This happened by a process called evolution, and you’ll learn more about it But trust me, that’s really how we all got here. There’s proof of it everywhere, buried in the rocks. That story you heard? About how we were all created by a super-powerful dude named God who lives up in the sky? Total bullshit. The whole God thing is actually an ancient fairy tale that people have been telling one another for thousands of years. We made it all up. Like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.”
“Oh, and by the way … there’s no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny. Also bullshit. Sorry, kid Deal with it.”
‘You’re probably wondering what happened before you got here. An awful lot of stuff, actually. Once we evolved into humans, things got pretty interesting. We figured out how to grow food and domesticate animals so we didn’t have to spend all of our time hunting. Our tribes got much bigger, and we spread across the entire planet like an unstoppable virus. Then, after fighting a bunch of wars with each other over land, resources, and our made-up gods, we eventually got all of our tribes organized, or civilized, and we continued to fight a lot of wars with each other. But we also figured out how to do science, which helped us develop technology. For a bunch of hairless apes, we’ve actually managed to invent some pretty incredible things. Computers. Medicine. Lasers. Microwave ovens. Artificial hearts. Atomic bombs. We even sent a few guys to the moon and brought them back. We also created a global communications network that lets us all talk to each other, all around the world, all the time. Pretty, impressive, right?’
‘But that’s where the bad news comes in. Our global civilization came at ahuge cost. We needed a whole bunch of energy to build it, and we got that energy by burning fossil fuels… We used up most of this fuel before you got here, and now it’s pretty much all gone. This means that we no longer have enough energy to keep our civilization running like it was before. So we’ve had to cut back. Big-time. We call this the Global Energy Crisis, and it’s been going on for a while now.’
‘To be honest, the future doesn’t look to bright. You were born at a pretty crappy time in history. And it looks like things are only gonna get worse from here on out. Human civilization is in ‘decline.’ Some people even say it’s ‘collapsing.”
Once upon a beautiful, warm May day… The only beautiful, warm May day. I had been looking forward to more baby-runs-around-in-just-her-mega-cute-diapers-and-a-hat-outside days this spring. Instead it rains and rains, is cold and colder, and we still have to light the damn wood stove. But you take what you can get.
We’ve gotten rain, and we’ve gotten new diapers. Namely, the BabyKicks Basic Pocket Diaper and the BabyKicks Premium Pocket Diaper. It is a testament to the cuteness of the damn things that I can still get excited over what amounts to a little cloth envelope for poop and pee.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: BabyKicks diapers are pretty sweet. The main reason for this is the materials. Most are organic, and all of them are really really fluffy and soft, made of the kind of fabric you feel compelled to rub against your cheek when you see it, that makes you think of clouds and cotton candy and being wrapped in a thousand soft fleece blankets after a warm bath.
(And on a side note, don’t the baby Converse just kill you?! The tyranny of the small…)
At first, in my hand, this diaper felt a little flimsy. But what did I expect? I started my adventures in BabyKicks by testing their “premium” products. So of course the basic diaper is going to feel…basic. But in practice, they’re great. They don’t have the fleece “air gusset” around the leg that the premium pocket diaper features, but that means that there is also no non-water-proof bit to soak in pee and leak it onto Pickles’ pants. (What the leg gusset gives in comfort and breath-ability, it takes in increased leaks. It is a great diaper for healing up diaper rash, running around pant-less, and “I will have time to change this again in 1-2 hours instead of 4-6″ situations.)
So what is the difference between the BabyKicks Premium Pocket Diaper and the Basic? ONE Premiums come with a hemp insert. Basics come with a poly hemp blend insert. Both are lovely. TWO Basics lack the air gusset on the leg. This is both a pro and a con, as I described above. THREE Premiums come with an ultra-soft, quick-drying over-sert so that only the softest, driest bit is ever touching baby’s skin. This is an awesome idea, but as we use throw-away inserts in our diapers to catch the poop (these things), they aren’t very useful for us. With a price difference of $5.51 I would recommend going for the basic for the bulk of your collection, with 3-6 of the organic fitted diapers thrown in for nighttime use and as many of the Joey-Bunz hemp inserts as you can afford to buy.
So far, BabyKicks have given me none of the problems I’ve had with FuzziBunz (leaking, leaking, and more leaking. oh yeah, and lots of broken snaps). After I took this picture Pickles sat in that puddle, and the inside of the diaper was still dry. How’s that for waterproof?
If you need some cloth diapers for your babe and want to support Click Clack Gorilla at the same time, then buy your diapers through the affiliate links throughout this post. Also: BabyKicks trades me free diapers in exchange for my reviews, but they do not tell me what to say. These are my honest to cod opinions, scout’s honor.
So much of life is tidal that it is no wonder that inspiration operates on the same cycle. And yet when the tide is out, I’m damning the water, and when it’s in, I’m floundering and flopping for the time to put thoughts in places where they will keep before the water slips back out to the sea.
Right now the musical tide is in. The water is lapping at my toes, foaming lyrics and melodies and inspiration. (If you are new to Click Clack Gorilla, this is the music I make.) We played a great show last week in Wiesbaden, and we’re going to be playing a great show in Frankfurt on June 11 (details about that here if you’re interested). And probably a whole bunch of great shows in Holland come July.
Usually this feeling, of bursting with ideas and energy and music, comes after a show with an awesome band. But getting it right out of the air is a sweet high. Makes me want to take up an instrument. (That I undoubtedly will never master. I lack all the discipline on that front.) But if I did, this would be my first act:
If you’re interested in hearing what else has been inspiring me lately, then hop over here. Or watch this video…this is the person we are collaborating with for our next album, and her lyrics just bowl me over every time. Wait until you hear the one about the activist and the small time crook.
Repetition becomes habit becomes tapestry. I remember a life without Pickles in the vague sort of way that one remembers a dream. It is vivid at first, weird, meaningful, maybe even interesting, but slowly fades into obscurity. Must not have been that interesting after all.
Definition Morgenmuffel: Not a morning person. Definition Morgenmuffel: Baby Pickles. Her roving hand keeps me half awake for the hour she she spends after 6 am, eyes closed, nursing and rolling and feeling around, nursing and rolling and feeling around. When she does wake up, sun shines from her face. One of the sweetest parts of co-sleeping with kids is waking up next to that sort of smile. (Also: The part where you never have to get up and move from the bed in order to get a woken baby back to sleep. That part may or may not be even better. The jury is still out on my priorities there.)
I stay horizontal for as long as I can while she toddles around the bed. She nurses. If the Beard is home she would throw herself onto his chest and he would pull her beneath the blanket to spoon for the moment’s patience she still has for laying down. He was not home this morning, so after 20 minutes I rolled myself out of bed to get Pickles some milk and me some coffee. Mmm coffee. She hops around on the bed and floor while I click around the internet for a few minutes. Then we both slip into rubber boots for the walk to the bathroom where I have to hide all the toilet brushes before setting her down to play semi-attended for the few minutes we’ll spend there. I always forget to bring along the laundry that I should be shoving into the washer.
After the usual morning dance (getting dressed, new diaper, teeth, hair, face), I load up the bike trailer (snacks, water, rain coats, tools for fixing flats, baby, toys) and pedaled north. I want to go for a ride—with the Beard at work staying home alone with Pickles can get a bit dull—and so pick a friend’s house as a destination. Wandering no longer suits me. Time has become too precious. A bike ride always means time just for me, with Pickles in the back playing notes on a tiny plastic keyboard, time for long naps (hers), and it makes up for the time I might have spent at the gym had the Beard been home to watch her himself. But a destination is necessary to get me out the door.
We arrive after almost two hours on the road, and my friend’s dog is barking, her son in tears. One of those mornings. But eventually our kids settle into entertaining each other, running back and forth across the apartment, passing toy cars back and forth, and we can sit and chat, almost uninterrupted. Add a social element to child care, and it is immediately, infinitely easier. This is where the village comes in. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a village to keep a parent. I will never understand why our culture promotes the isolation of the nuclear family. It’s not making anything easier on anybody.
After lunch I rush back to my bike, hoping to make it home in time for a neighbor to take Pickles for a walk. But it is only my second time riding this route (the first being that very morning), and I still have to stop and look at the map, still make a few wrong turns. I miss my neighbor, and we get home in an hour, too late. Pickles opens her eyes just as we are rounding the path before our Wagen. It is almost 3 pm.
It rains, and I am relieved to have a reason to stay inside. We sing songs (me: singing, Pickles: starting to muddily mimic the movements that go with the words of Twinkle Twinkle and Wind the Bobbin Up), and when Pickles becomes absorbed in removing and inserting a handful of objects into a cup, I read (Unnatural Creatures edited by Neil Gaiman). When she needs my full attention, I put on an audio book (Sabriel by Garth Nix). If I don’t keep something playing, keep my brain somehow stimulated, I get bored of play time faster than you can say Abhorsen. I occasionally flit back to my computer, set up on the dresser, for a quick click around the internet.
Hunger follows, and dinner, which I cook in the kitchen Wagen with Pickles doing laps up and down the room. We eat in the red Wagen after I mop down the rain-wet high chair. We usually eat outside. Pickles eats attentively, her breath even and audible as it always is when she is concentrating. Bratwurst and mashed sweet potatoes (you know you live in Germany when…) disappear into her mouth, and I think of my parents asking me if I had a hollow leg the way I used to put away food as a kid.
Back into rubber boots we walk in circles around the property, following cats, stomping in puddles, going up and down a ramp, until suddenly Pickles is whiny and surly. I sweep her off to home, slip her into a thick diaper and pajamas, and within four minutes of laying down to nurse, she is asleep. I read until I can hold my eyes open no longer, and then I join her, her arm draped across my ribs, pressed together beneath two blankets.
Sometimes I forget how great being on a bike can make you feel. How exhilarating it can be. Like, for example, when you don’t ride a bike for two years because you’re pregnant (and then too nauseous and then too spacey and then too enormous and keep kneeing yourself in the belly when you try to peddle) and then because your freshly squeezed newborn doesn’t do anything but scream when you try to use the bike trailer. I forgot then.
But Pickles doesn’t hate the bike trailer anymore. Now she tolerates it for up to two hours at a time. Now it almost always puts her to sleep for a 40 minute nap that she wouldn’t have taken at home (which, much to my surprise, seems to be resulting in better and more sleep nights, weird). Glory glory hallelujah, I am no longer a slave to the Deutsche Bahn.
Not that I don’t like the Deutsche Bahn. I love the Deutsche Bahn. Public transportation in Germany wins all the awards from me. But it can still be a hassle. And it still costs more money than I’d like to be spending on something I could be doing for free (2.60 a pop, 6.somethingorother for a day pass, 9.80 for a group day pass). Because of the lay of the tracks and the waiting and the walking time, I am actually faster than the train when it comes to going into the city. (A sentence that makes me feel like the bike hulk. Heh.)
Now I go out of my way to find reasons to go for a ride, places to journey out to. Like today, when I was here:
The ride took me to a village to the north of Frankfurt, and the way was almost entirely through fields that looked like this, on paved bike paths where I met the occasional walker, dog, or fellow cyclist. The weather looked mean (it was faking), so only a handful of people had braved the backsides of their doors. And the city lurked off in the background, far away from us.
Judging from the kilometer count, it should have taken me 30-40 minutes to find my way to my friend’s apartment this morning. But it turned out that Google maps had invented a path, and I did a lot of backtracking and stopping to check the map. In the end I was almost 2 hours in getting there. But it was a lovely ride.
Oo la la! A video that we filmed almost three years ago about my Wagen and renovating it and how I dumpster dived the hell out of the building supply store. Deek of the blog relaxshacks and the book Humble Homes, Simple Shacks turned that footage (with help from some other excellent folks whose names you will find in the credits) into another lovely segment of Tiny Yellow House TV. Ever wondered what my voice sounds like after reading so many silent words on a screen? Well, now you know. Enjoy…
The very first tiny house I ever inhabited. All thanks to encouragement from a friend at just the right moment. Here you can read about how I decided to move into this adorable blue shoe. Oh, and if you’re wondering what the hell a Wagenplatz is, I explain it in detail here and here. (Hint: It is an autonomous community of people living in various small houses, “common” to Germany.)
My second tiny Wagen was in a different community in a different city. I shared it with my partner. (Still do, as a matter of fact, though now there are three of us living between these red walls):
Some black cats are good luck. Though be wary if you catch them drinking vodka.
After a while, I was offered this Wagen for free (the one with the black door in the picture below). I took it and spent about a year renovating it (and learning everything about building from scratch while doing it).
It looked quite different when I started. For one it was green. But you can read about the entire refab process here. (Pictures too.)
Then we moved to another city, they very same where my tiny house adventures had begun, but to a different community. And we bought a third Wagen that I am planning on Frankensteining onto the red Wagen, our main living Wagen, this summer.
And now, I can barely even fathom even living in a house again. Although I sometimes do dream about little cabins in the woods. Sweet, sweet, summer tiny house life.
Oh, and if you’re coming over after having watched Deek’s Tiny Yellow House feature on my little house, then by all means, subscribe to the rss feed. Come back soon now.
You can’t get anything done by doing nothing. It’s our country. They’ve taken it from us. The terrorists who attack us are still free—but we’re not. I can’t go underground for a year, ten years, my whole life, waiting for freedom to be handed to me. Freedom is something you have to take for yourself.
-Little Brother, Cory Doctorow
Cory Doctorow, where have you been all of my life? I know, I know. You’ve been publishing the shit out of a bunch of books, doing tech activism, loving on creative commons, giving away ebooks, running Boing Boing, and saying important things about technology, copyright, privacy, security, and surveillance. Tor published Little Brother in 2008, which means I have spent at least five years of my life with no idea that an author with potential to become a favorite was waiting just off my radar. It took an interview on the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy Podcast (best sci fi podcast ever, fyi) to get me to sit up and download some of his books already.
As far as I can tell, Doctorow is a kind of superhero in the tech activism world, and his school of thought is a really good reminder about the positive side of technology. Technology can be awesome. Yup. Nikki-who-dabbles-in-Ludditery just said that. The narrator in Little Brotherputs it like this after pulling another badass move using modern tech: “The best part of all this is how it made me feel: in control. My technology was working for me, serving me, protecting me. It wasn’t spying on me. This is why I loved technology: if you used it right, it could give you power and privacy.”
Oh yeah, technology is only fucked when, for example, the government insists on using it to monitor people, when it becomes a tool of surveillance and control. It is a reminder I need to hear, often. I mean, I actually reallylike a lot of technology, and I have a hard time reconciling those feelings with the worry that the stuff simultaneously plants in the pit of my stomach. It is the “dystopian” (haha, I mean real life) shit that governments do with it that scares me. (As well as the dependence it creates on finite resources, but that is another issue. We don’t need to have that conversation every single paragraph.)
But back to Little Brother. The premise is this: a high school kid who is really good with technology is in the wrong place at the wrong time, and gets taken in by a fictional version of Homeland Security for a bombing in San Francisco. Bad things happen. He is released. He fights back against what is becoming a very totalitarian state of affairs. Besides being an engaging, page-turning story, Doctorow peppers the plot with information about how you can make technology work for you, how you can hide what you’re doing on the internet, how to do a number of small but neat hacks, where you can learn more, and why a deep understanding of the tech you use can work for you and help keep tech positive rather than scary. I immediately added it to my mental list of “books to get for every young adult I ever need to buy a birthday present for” list (see also, Earthsea). This is the kind of stuff that makes me wish I had a parallel life in which I could have become a programmer. It is that engaging.
Doctorow’s perspective on copyright is intriguing as well. And I quote (from my totally free, totally legally downloaded e-book file introduction):
The Creative Commons license at the top of this file probably tipped you off to the fact that I’ve got some pretty unorthodox ideas about copyright. Here’s what I think of it, in a nutshell: A little goes a long way, and more than that is too much.
I like the fact that copyright lets me sell rights to my publishers and film studios and so on. It’s nice that they can’t just take my stuff without permission and get rich on it without cutting me in for a piece of the action. I’m in a pretty good position when it comes to negotiating with these companies: I’ve got a great agent and a decade’s experience with copyright law and licensing…
I hate the fact that fans who want to do what readers have always done are expected to play in the same system as all these hotshot agents and lawyers. It’s just stupid to say that an elementary school classroom should have to talk to a lawyer at a giant global publisher before they put on a play based on one of my books. It is ridiculous to say that people who want to “loan” their electronic copy of my book to a friend need to get a license to do so. Loaning books has been around longer than any publisher on Earth, and it’s a fine thing.
His argument goes on for pages and pages, and it compelling, but I won’t quote any more of it at you here. (Like I said, you can just download the book with the intro here for free, and read it yourself. Even if you don’t have an ereader you can download a program like Calibre for free and read it on the computer that you must be reading this on right now. And even if you don’t want to read the book, download it for the introduction, and the copyright argument.) Doctorow’s views on copyright just make me want to go out and spend money on all his books. I mean, this guy deserves to have my money. I want him to have it. I want to financially support the man who is going out there and writing this kind of book and promoting this kind of thinking. And that is exactly his point, when it comes to copyright and using Creative Commons, and giving your fans a little credit. I can’t wait to read more of his work.
Have you read any Doctorow? What do you think about his views on copyright?
Why is self sufficiency so attractive? Why do kids love books about survival? Hell, why do adults love books about survival? My theory is this: power. It is incredibly empowering to know that you can provide for yourself, that, left to your own devices, you will overcome, nary a supermarket or paycheck in sight. Our culture has become one of extreme dependence—dependence on strangers and resources completely out of our control, our concern, our sight. Not to say that dependence in general is bad, but dependence on finite resources, on processes we have no connection with or clue about, that is an uncomfortable kind of dependence. Day to day it is convenient, but if anything disrupts the system, well then, fuck. It is the premise of pretty much ever post-apocalyptic book ever written.
Which brings me to solar power. I would love to be completely solar powered. But having always lived on Wagenplätze where electricity was just an extension cord away, I have been lazy about it. Solar panels are expensive. Rewiring your plugs is annoying. Buying a computer capable of running on 12-volt juice is not something I am in the mood to do. (After Mac Air, Mac Sun?) For now, it remains a dream. But if we could power our fridge in the summer (we don’t really need it in the winter) with solar power, imagine how much we would save! Someday.
The first of what I assume will be many small steps toward solar power in our lives were two solar lamps. (You can see a picture if you click the link. Pickles wouldn’t let me get a good shot on my way out the door this morning.) I’d been eyeing them for a long time, ever since reading Deek’s review of them over on the Tiny House Blog. And shit, they only cost 15 euros (a bit more expensive over in America). Another friend bought one when he started a new Wagenplatz sans grid electricity (this is actually the standard for most Wagenplätze, fyi), and it looked pretty sweet.
What you get is a lamp, a bit futuristic looking in that Ikea modernity sort of way. A long bendable giraffe neck holds the bulbs, while a round base holds a small solar panel. You pop out the panel, lay it outside in the sun, and wa-la! Electricity. I love that they are cable-less, I love that they come in black, and I love that my reading lamp is now solar-powered. Win-win-win. Win!
I will admit it: I am wasteful with electricity. My main sin being that I sometimes leave lights on when it isn’t strictly necessary. Though it isn’t much (particularly considering that we have light bulbs that use very minimal power), it is something, and that is always too much. Shit, this electricity is coming from nuclear plants. From coal plants. Fuck! I hate that shit!
We’ve had the solar lamps for about a week now, and already they have completely changed the way I relate to electricity. Where before I might have turned on a lamp while it was still light outside because it was getting dim in the Wagen, now I think, well, if I turn it on now, and then want to read for hours and hours later, will the juice run out and leave me in the dark? (The instructions say the lamp can do three hours, though my friend said he’s gotten four.) Electricity and its consumption has instantly become more concrete. If I remember to set the solar panels out in the sun, I will have light (nine to 12 hours charge time needed). If I do not, I will have no light. It is a simple equation, but one we are rarely forced to consider. I can’t wait for the next solar step.