Paint me a picture of Everything, the place

The crew is wrapping up a day. I spent the day before with the entire community, barnraising. Everyone brought picnic supplies: food from the garden, and we all pounded nails and threw straw bales around, trying not to drop anything on the heads of the kids who were fetching tools for us. The barn is on the outer edge of this town-within-a-town, but the garden has gotten big enough that we needed storage for gear, and the woodworking and metalshop were bursting the seams of the original studio.

At twilight, we all strolled back to the "town square", the original common space we created when we tore all the fences out from the middle of this block. It took a lot of time to see it come alive. we started out with three houses, a few neighbors joined in, realizing over time the value of some of our ideas. The pub, coffee house and bookstore all rolled into one was expecting another nodeslam tonight, all around a central "theme". We all drank a pint of beer. In the corner of the common house are a stack of musical instruments, anywhere from one person to a whole crew was twiddling and jamming at any particular time.

This is such a gorgeous place. The houses definitely express the eclecticism of a group of noders, and the town square looks like a cross between an organic garden (which it is) and Mardi Gras. It's a space that's fairly adaptable, and goes from yoga studio to playground to outdoor stage to gathering space and party zone over the course of a day.

Tomorrow I have a free day - I plan to spend it painting and gardening. Everyone donates about eight hours of their time a week to "maintenance" of the town, but I seem to end up gardening more than my eight hours because I love it. I had missed having my hands in the dirt when I worked in San Francisco more than I can express, and it's always a joy to see our gardens blooming. I'm having a firewood cutting contest with jay bo, we STILL argue about which is a better chainsaw. There is no doubt in MY mind...I might spend part of the morning with the kids - almost every adult "teaches", rotating through the "school" which is really more about figuring out how to include a passle of kids into your work once in a while, then about a formal classroom. These kids seem to absorb ideas in through their skin. We get them banging on computer keyboards, weeding, teach them plumbing, carpentery, music, everything. They don't really seem to separate "school" from "life" much, which was one of the goals of the educational system we set up.

I'm looking forward to hanging out in the studios tomorrow - I'm amazed by how fast the art side of this has grown. Everyone started to pitch in with their own hobbies, arts, crafts, and it has been hugely successful. Fuzzy and blue and I are collaborating on a bookbinding project; we've taught the kids how to use the printing press, and it seems to be running constantly. Oil paints, pottery, fabric, tools, yarn, just about every art and craft possible is available, the space, the supplies, and a local expert (or at least enthusiastic amateur) to look over your shoulder and comment. I'm currently trading oil painting lessons for watercolor, and I mostly make messes but we're having a blast.

Although it's a free day, I'm going to pop my head into the tech workshop and see what's happening. We more or less locked everyone in a room together at the beginning of this, and said, okay, come up with the top five viable ideas that we can market AND that people want to spend their time doing. And it worked. Game development is not my area, but apparently it's going great guns. People definitely don't seem as crabby as they did at my former job, but that's because we're not all locked to our computers all day long - some people do work late or odd hours, but that's more by choice than necessity.

Next week a handful of us are headed to a grant writing workshop - the non-profit continues to flourish. I don't spend too much time actually writing grant requests any more, but again, it's wonderful to see the ideas people in the town walk in with - think we can get money to do THIS? I don't know, but it never hurts to try. And we've funded some great projects along the way...

Three visitors are expected tomorrow. I don't know if they are visiting writers to ideath's writing workshop, or tourists wanting to see how this weird little community runs itself, but they will end up talking to most of us by the end of the day. I'm constantly surprised how people come for a visit, and then take the ideas away, export them, evolve them for their own uses.....but it's still a thrill to go visit a place that I know got some ideas from us - the open source town.

I imagined a day in the life of the e2 community, still evolving from Everything Kansas. What's yours? Paint me a picture from your imagination. Tell me a story about...

Never doubt that a small group of thoughful, committed people can change the world.
Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead

It's cold in November.

Really cold. Ah, hell: it's fucking freezing. Summer was amazing, and fall was beautiful, but since Halloween we've had to look at the tapestries differently--among other things. They're beautiful, they'd sell for a lot of money, but they're also warm. Bart drove through the other day on his way out west and dropped off some sweatshirts, a few bags of pretzels, candles and matches, spare wicks, some beef jerky... his generosity is something else, really. Unbelievable. Skiznip got drunk and peed the words "HOT DAMN! WE LOV BORT!" into the snowdrift by the west gate. If we've got the noder-hours to spare, we're sending an ambassador or maybe a convoy out to HOT DAMN 10. That's if the tapestries are still in a condition to be sold. Maybe we could sell stuff to the OSU kids in Columbus... but again: if we've got it.

Once Bart was gone, we huddled around the fire again. The maple grove is still pretty big. We'll have enough fire this winter, as long as we don't over-harvest.

We were supposed to have power and water hooked up by October, but Igloowhite thinks the county is malingering--he snuck into a town council meeting dressed like a local and asked what they planned to do. They said we were none of their concern. Redneck fuckers... after the festival this summer, they just turn their back, like we're gypsy hippies or something.

We're lucky we've got drugs. Not pot. Well, yeah, the pot's nice. But the flu medicine means that most of us can keep working through the bug that's going around. We've needed more water to keep everyone hydrated with the vomiting, and there was some tension when we thought it was food poisoning--ideath stuck up for the newbies who were learning to cook, and soon enough the bug spread, and she was vindicated. We all circled around the fire at the meeting and apologized to her, and someone said she should get the last beer. We drank a toast to her with water. Someone's going to need to make a town run as soon as we make a few more sales. Solstice was cold, but the celebration kept us warm. Newlyweds talk about living on nothing but love. We're close to that now. I'd rather have a little more chicken. Christmas is tomorrow, but we're partied out... and tired. Dann is having a sunrise service for anyone who wants to mark the holiday. Some of the younger noders' parents might send presents--then I'll mark the holiday.

jessicapierce sent brownies and cookies and a really good novel. Random House is publishing it in March. We're taking turns reading aloud from it over meals.

January's here, and still no power from the county. We sold some hardware and bought a diesel generator, set it up in the blue house we hold meetings in, ran dryer hose from the exhaust right out through the wall. Space heaters! One of the stoners who's good with pipes figured out a way to use the heat in the exhaust to warm up a tank of water before we expel it to the atmosphere; jethro bodine did some napkin-math and agreed that it would work, so the two of them built it. We check the nodes on the computer after dinner--free AOL disks are still keeping us connected!--and whoever's earned the most XP each day gets to decide who gets the first hot-water foot soak. At least one of us posts a daylog every day.

In addition to "Butterfinger McFlurry," we're now all forbidden from saying the words "Donner Party". The jokes were tasteless, anyway. An Everythingian from BAP 2.0 just got her law degree from Harvard. A quick pro bono letter to the county, and we had power and lighting. A reporter asked the county commissioner some pesky questions, a story about us went up on Drudge, and e-mails crashed the county server. We sent noders to fix it as a gesture of good faith, and they've grudgingly agreed to tap us into sewer within two years if we can afford our half.

I've stopped writing daylogs; if you miss my diaries, I'm sorry, but I've got more important things to do here. When Everything became a town, it was only a matter of time before it stopped being a website to us. Nate--and the noders who go about their normal lives, dropping in from time to time--gave us permission to sell printed copies of original fiction from E2. Some kids from Grinnell and Antioch College came through during their spring break. One of them bought a whole box, said he'd tell everyone where he got them. We're buying beer for the first time since Solstice with the money--and paying the power bill.

We've got reservations for spring break and eleven of the twelve weeks of summer--twenty people each week, and each of them pays a flat fee. Some pay the bill by working all week. College kids, hippies, an anthropologist. Two doctors who are going to Iraq to teach medical school want to practice by teaching us. Jaez is going to help them work on their Farsi. Five people are signed up to live here all summer. Well, except for the week we road trip to Bart's. We've got the money for everyone to go. Ten of us are remaining behind to keep an eye on the place. We're drawing lots to see who gets to stay.

The preceding is a work of original fiction; that means you can sell it. Make this the epigraph, make it an epilogue, make it toilet paper--but if I can do anything for you, let me know.

sex, death, birth, growth, eating, life... all that stuff's real. the rest is magic.

Bound to wake up with my knees banging against my chin, curled safe against the rough blue seat in front and behind. The Sudafed rolls across my tongue in minute two; minute three and four finish off the last bottle of Gatorade. L'oreal concealer under each eye, hand steady and practiced over each bump and jostle. Stand. IBM laptop into the Eastpak, padded on either side by blue-yellow-red Mead notebooks containing hard copy of everything I've ever written worth reading. Champion hoodie over my head, wriggle, stretch, purse lips for no one. Stand up, sway with the physics, grab the bag and compensate for everything.

This node is bus.

I glance out the window to the left and, in the early sunrise, sketch a grid by eye over the living Kansas plane. I glance forward; passengers two and three rock side to side in heavy-coated half-sleep. Trace a path of diagonals, left and right but always forward, to the front of the bus. Turn and face the driver, a mound of American white and ruddy red in blue uniform.

"I need to get off now."

"We got about five hours, kid, and then you can get the best breakfast on this highway." A cracked, weary grin.

I spit blue Sudafed dye on the dashboard. "Already ate. Stop the bus." I hate being an asshole. I hate being a cliché far more. I hate hate HATE it. But I've been practicing for years.

The working class dream is angry. "You go sit down. SIDDOWN." I know he hasn't had a smoke in the last eight hours. I know the syringe rubber-banded to my left ankle is out of reach. I know that if I could get the needle throught his neck now, the node called bus would yaw and arc at a nifty fifty mph through the rail and down the embankment, nosedown-square A3-Grid Left.

Now I am a big baller. TEEN ANGST THUG removes his empty stainless steel Ruger P95 from under his hoodie and thumbs the safety. TEEN ANGST THUG twists the gun upwards, presses it against his right temple, two-guard-shaved hair rustling like wheat. TEEN ANGST THUG makes the saddest, roundest hazel eyes in the history of humankind. TEEN ANGST THUG is afraid and beautiful.

"Now I am getting off the bus." I am making ass of self! I am loving you long time! SHUT UP SHUT UP.

Driver needs reason badly! Driver is, however, about to stop. Pshshhshh. Passengers two and three wake and sleep again in seconds. "This is the middle of nowhere, kid. Where the hell do you think you're going?"

Off and down the embankment, across the amber waves, twelve or fifteen feet, to turn and wave the gun vaguely at the pudgy red face leaning out and above me. "IT'S FOR A SCHOOL PROJECT!" WHAT?!

I'm pretty glad that I didn't have to show him the bomb.

The syringe goes in the backpack, along with the gun, and the brand-name patch from the hoodie. The electric razor whines, and my dyed bangs fall between the notebooks; the razor is wedged underneath the orange bottles of prescription drugs. A tin of naptha is poured over the thick orange package - no metal or plastic is going to survive this one. Sorry, Farmer Brown. One more woe for the workingman; a faggot from back East just torched your field, the damndest damndest thing at 5:03 AM Naval Observatory time. The Rolex is new and the last to go in the bag.

Fuse payed out thirty feet, and lit. Beat it to the treeline. MOVE MOVE MOVE--

Another chunk of America's breadbasket is overcooked to cinders and fed to a hungry morning. This node is over.

Now I am hunched at a hill, on perimeter, out of the reach of the lights. A few buildings huddled together, a few dark shapes flitting in and out. Far too much laughter for the population I've estimated.

I haven't been a vegetarian for three days. I used its tailbone to cut apart the tiny carcass, and I ate it raw. How the hell can anyone go for eighteen years without doing that?

Down there, I know that there are most likely vegetarian meals that aren't just brown gack, and probably matches and bottled water and kerosene. There might be some forced geniality upon recognition, and certainly enough charity to support an unknown variable. I remain, rather, here on the edges in the dark. No need to crash. I just wanted to see for myself - I wanted to know that they put the thing together, and that it is taller and wider and deeper than me.

Well, moron, when you want to get somewhere in the worst way, that's the only way to get there. I wonder if you can go home?

This node is Everything, Kansas.

I'm waking up in E2Kansas, although we're not actually in Kansas. I feel the light of dawn on my closed eyes. I've never been a morning person, and now I sleep the hours that feel right to my body. Laying there, letting the sleep drift out of my mind, I think over my day... Oh yeah, today I get to write this really cool system for simulating waves on the water in the new game we're working on. It came to me last night as I was helping to paint one of the new buildings, a clever hack that should make for really realistic wave motion, without slowing down the game at all. Thank heavens for the hour of time I have to work with my hands, and just meditate, let my mind empty. I do my best thinking at those times. This is exciting, draws me out of bed. I laugh at how I used to have to force myself out of bed.

My family is already up. My lover is gone already, and I remember she was going to help get the community theatre group organized. They're supposed to decide on a play to perform today. I would join them, but the game project is just drawing too much of my time. I heard they were leaning towards one written by one of the noders, but I forget who... I help the kids get everything ready for school, and walk with them down to the school building.

On the way back, I watch a couple of noders bike past, on their way to jobs in the city. Not everyone wanted to work on the internal projects, and that's fine. I love how quiet it is. The only motor I can hear is the muffled sounds from the machinist shop. It's exciting how clever some of the people have been. Our water filtration and distribution system is really brilliant, and the geniuses behind it are at work on something else. I'm sure it will be equally amazing.

I can smell people in the Kitchen, cooking up the day's lunch. Ever since our first harvest, the food has tasted... cleaner, than I'm used to. I think I'm not the only one who's felt the difference, felt more energetic, less sick. And man, the folks who run the Kitchen are coming up with some fantastic recipes. Apparently the few sets of the cookbook we printed for sale have already been snapped up at health food stores in town.

Of course, you can tell our roots by the fact that our satellite internet connection was one of the first things to go up. I pass the fire pit where we held a bonfire last night. I'm a little surprised I have no hangover, it was a crazy night. You haven't lived until you've seen a bunch of half-drunk people jumping over a bonfire to live music, interspersed with half a dozen people sitting on logs, huddled over laptop computers. You can take the noder out of the nodegel, but you can't take the nodegel out of the noder. My lips smack at the memory... the people running the microbrewery are making some amazing concoctions. I think the paperwork for our licensing to start selling some to local pubs is just about done, and I'm sure whatever the team decides to sell will be a huge success. They get better with each batch.

It is truly inspiring to see some of the art that our community has produced. This place is alive.

I walk into the "sweatshop", affectionately called that by everyone working on the game. Everybody in this room is full of passion. I hear the other projects have the same mood permeating them. People are sitting at desks decorated with toys and fantastic sculptures. The walls are lined from top to bottom with concept art. I marvel again at the incredible jobs our artists are doing. The designers came up with a brilliant world and storyline, and the artists have really taken it to task. Things are quiet today... Someone gestures to me to be quiet with a finger to the lips. Ahh yes, voice recording today. I forgot. I can hear one of our thespians shouting strangled death cries in the recording room, and I have to suppress a chuckle. On my way to the programmers area, I notice an artist working on an easter egg for the game, animating a pair of female monkeys feeding each other tofu. I groan. It's going to be a humorous day.

If they could bore holes in my back with their eyes, I’d be a dead man.

The noise level in this little country courtroom is a bit hard to take, but at least the crowd keeps my opposing counsel form trying to make chit-chat. I hate chatting with lawyers when I am trying to get ready for a hearing. The bailiff looks nervous.

“All rise”

To me, it’s an annoyance. For the judge, this is a disaster. The easy thing to do, which also happens to be the legally correct thing, is politically suicidal.

This should be a simple, quiet little appeal hearing, two lawyers, maybe their clients. It’s an appeal, so it’s all argument, no witnesses, and the issues are pretty cut-and-dried. Nine times out of ten, she just rubber stamps these, which is as it should be. The mere threat of judicial review keeps people honest: the review itself need not be onerous.

Instead, it’s a total zoo: a raft of lawyers for the county, half the county commission behind the bar, all the local media, and as many angry citizens as can fit into t he courtroom, and plenty more angry citizens outside in the hall that can’t fit, making a ruckus in the hall that washes into the courtroom every time someone opens the doors. Thank goodness the E2 people listened to me when I told them to stay away.

I can see this in her eyes as she tells everyone to sit down, scopes out the lawyers she knows --the guys from the county-- and then fastens on me, the stranger. Judges, of course, are elected officials and this little case is going to make getting re-elected a lot harder if she rules for the internet cultists. Her district encompasses several rural counties, and we barely control one of them.

Fortunately for the E2K community, we’re on the winning side here. In the early days it was easy to get all these zone changes rammed through the county. There was so little going on here in rural America, nothing to keep the kids from moving away to the Big City looking for jobs, looking for a life. When it was just grundie and a few professional-looking noders who clean up real nice, when we swept in talking “planned community” and “internet” and “sustainable investment”, they loved it. At worst we’d generate a few construction jobs, at best we’d give the local kids a reason to stay. They bought it hook, line and sinker.

Now, of course, they’ve seen the guns, the drugs, the drunken mobs from Boston and London, now that we’ve mocked their fundamentalist Christianity, now that they think we’re a cult, now that we’ve got the numbers to control the politics of the Village, and more than enough cash to control county politics ... now they have to explain why it was a mistake to let us in. Closin’ the barn door after the horses run off: always a tough argument

As I suspected, the county lawyers are unimpressive. The crowd seems to think they are wonderful, but judge starts looking increasingly agitated. When my turn comes around, she’s ready to snap.

“May it please the Court, my name is ...”

As I introduce myself and state who I represent --which for the first time in my life happens to be a governmental entity, the incorporated Village-- the crowd starts hissing and murmuring, and the judge has had enough. She threatens them all with contempt, and then glares at me. I allow myself the faintest hint of amusement as I launch into my argument: short, sweet. She’s read the briefs: she knows I’m right. We are now the status quo.

"We'll be in recess"

She takes it under advisement. That means we won. If she was going to rule the way the crowd wants her to, she’d announce it. Once the judge has fled, robes flying (nice shoes, I think) the room is quiet for the moment while the spectators try to figure out whether their side won or not, and then into angry buzz when they all realize they probably lost.

Now the reporters. I explain for the umpteenth time that a zoning appeal is not the appropriate way to resolve political issues, that no matter who wins the lawsuit the political issues will remain unresolved, and that the Everything community is here to stay. Only the last bite makes it on the news, of course.

I keep my serious face on until I drive away. Sometimes it’s nice to be a cog in the machine.


The Youth Committee has broken up again, this time over the discussion of plans for the upcoming Summer Festival. (Would somebody please remind me whose idea it was to let the Youth Committee handle the Summer Festival? Oh, wait, that's right - it was my idea, unanimously approved as "a great way to get the kids involved in the community". Kick me next time I have an idea, wouldja?) NoderX and BatmanBeyondBeyond got upset about their plan for a Kansas version of Burning Man getting vetoed, called the rest of the council a bunch of weak-kneed old farts, said that the youth of Everything has no more real representation than anywhere else in the world, and left the committee. The three remaining council members, who admittedly ARE a bunch of weak-kneed old farts because nobody else wanted to be on the Youth Committee, seem to be leaning towards a traditional Fourth of July celebration "so that everyone can get back in touch with their roots". I'll be sitting out this Summer Festival, of course.

JackalGrrl has started another slowdown. She says she doesn't get decent compensation for her hours, which are longer than anyone else's, and she needs an assistant. Until she gets at least one of these demands, she's just going to work as fast as she can, which suddenly seems to be a rate of one busted toilet per day. The Secretariat (yes, I'm still in it, until we can find some new suckers) called her in and explained that none of our young people want to train as plumbers, and that we had all agreed that equal pay was the fairest deal. Some jobs take more time than others, but they all have to get equal compensation. Fair is fair, as she agreed when she originally signed the membership papers. So she stormed out of the secretariat's offices and went down to half a busted toilet per day. I knew we should have stuck with communal showers and composting toilets. Seriously, what are we going to do? JG is the only plumber we've got. Sometimes I wish we weren't all artistically motivated free spirits and 1337 hackers. (NOTE - same kind of slowdown happening with the repairs to the heat - we have GOT to get TheOtherDeadGuy an assistant. This is critical!)

We had to uproot an entire orchard of four-year-old apple trees because of fireblight. AppleMan was in tears, and there's not much chance the orchards will be turning a profit this year or the next. Them's the breaks, I guess. You can't fight nature.

In other agricultural news, our tiny dairy is understaffed again after three of the newbies, all big-city kids, simultaneously discovered that cowstink never really washes off completely. I don't know where we can put these guys. We can't all be games designers. Maybe one of them has always secretly dreamed of being a plumber?

Another fight broke out in the pub last night. As usual, it was a bunch of drunken townies telling some drunken Everythingites that we were a bunch of hippy geek perverts, and Everythingites responding that the townies are a bunch of inbred lusers. We may have to reconsider keeping the pub open to townies. Our kids are sure to complain that they need the new faces. I'm damn sure we need the cash, too. Thanks mostly to townie cash, the pub has actually turned out to be one of our most steadily profitable ventures. Must remember to congratulate Barfly and thank him for volunteering so many hours, even though I'm sure he drinks his fair share of free beer while he's there. NOTE - do we need oversight on pub expenditures? No, it would probably alienate Barfly unnecessarily, and he's doing a really good job so far. Let him drink.

Speaking of oversight, it turns out that MisterGreenThumb made good on what we all thought was a joke, and planted marijuana all through the gardens outside Building Seven. I can't believe he found so many plants, and I'm even more shocked that nobody noticed until the day before the inspector from the Sheriff's Department arrived to check on our deputies. I'm not looking forward to next Saturday's general meeting. It's always ugly when we vote on disciplinary measures.

Another thing that will make this meeting less than joyful - we are going to have to settle the religious issue once and for all. the Culture Committee has made zero progress towards resolving the matter, and our atheists are getting completely pissed off by what they call discrimination in the seasonal celebrations. I never thought this would be an issue until last year, when ThereIsNoGod torched the Christmas tree/Menorah/cubistic sculpture thing in the dining hall. Nobody complained when we got rid of the sick troll, but now it seems that some of the other atheists think he was oppressed or something, and they're making it an issue again. This is SO fucked up. We have complete freedom of religion, but people still find things to fight over.

What else is going on? Education - for some reason, nobody was getting it on in '06, so we don't have a classgroup for new arrival JuanDRico. He's spent the last few months with our second-graders, but there are signs that he could be having trouble there. He's the smallest one in the class, of course, and the seven native kids in that class are our most tightly integrated classgroup ever. Their teacher thinks we should pull Johnny out. But we can't send a kid that smart back to kindergarten. I'll have to ask his parents how they feel, maybe ask Johnny about it if I can catch him alone.

Financial - a disaster. Worst year yet. In addition to the orchard problems, we've got three so-called novelists who won't produce and say that the Muse will not be forced (funny how they find the energy to write all those whiny daylogs, eh?), an FPS that's already four months behind schedule (dear, departed, psychotic ThereIsNoGod was the head programmer), a couple of painters whose work no longer sells, Fandango's FX shop that spent far more than they should have on what they claim is the hot new digital FX hardware even though I have yet to see it mentioned in any movie's credits, and the B and B which has yet to show a profit (perhaps we overestimated our geek appeal just a bit). All of these things have cut into our profits, making for one hell of a tight year. Thank the Goddess for Inovata's organic honey venture, Barfly's pub, and the translators - without them, we would all be back in The New York City Noder Compound or our parents' houses. At this rate, we just might find ourselves there anyway by next summer.

Screw this. I'm going to go hang out with Barfly. I hear the brewers did a fantastic job this year. I wonder if the heat is working in the pub.

(This fun-filled tale has been a selectively edited version of twelve years of life on a kibbutz. Almost all of these events actually happened in slightly different forms. Of course, I picked out a bunch of disasters on purpose, just to make a point. I'm not trying to shoot anybody down, and I don't think Everything, Kansas is a bad idea. In fact, I'd love to get in on it if anybody is actually working to make it happen. But I think we need to remember there are serious obstacles and real problems involved. It's not just a matter of getting the ball started. It's not just a battle with narrowminded locals. That's the least of our problems. Most of the really hard work comes later, when you're trying to make a community full of artistic, free-thinking individualists actually work as a community. Communities aren't just cultural exchanges. They're also busted toilets and heat, educational problems, and police or police-like figures.)

It will be cold soon, but we should be prepared for it. We've stocked up on food staples, all the basics just in case. Perhaps it's only a psychological comfort to us, but there's rarely anything wrong with being prepared. The common living space, a quick but robust concrete tilt up destined to be a group space or communal workspace, was well insulated with tanks of water for passive solar heating, a heat pump to warm the floors, and a small, simple multi-fueled stove capable of burning almost anything from wood to charcoal, propane to white gas. It is intended to be left unused except on exceptionally cloudy or cold days, or during gatherings and feasts, as the passive heating and cooling systems should do wonders on it;s own. Come summertime, we'll core some proper windows in the tilt up slabs, triple glaze them with articulated panes and install passive solar powered cooling vanes.

The open gardens are well prepared for the coming spring, and the rather massive geodesic greenhouse only requires panels for the crown and final troubleshooting of its self-activated ventilation system. We can expect hothouse tomatoes, bell peppers, string beans, and other delectables perhaps even before Christmas. The interim water tower we erected last month is having leaking issues, and requires further weatherproofing for if/when any hard freezes occur. As it is, many of us miss a truly hot shower, but the temporary solar water heater will have to do for now. Some of us have taken to heating pails of water on the parabolic solar stoves.

We do have electricity coming to us from the 'grid', but we've all agreed that we should use it only sparingly for things like the computers, emergency hot water and heating. So far we've been plenty warm. We'll be weaning ourselves off the grid very soon. All of our lighting already comes from a batch of high quality solar panels, a bank of batteries, and a constellation of easily movable, cheap and indestructible cool-white LED lights. This was a wise investment. We'll always have light, and plenty of it, when and where we need it.

We've set up a community server and gateway to share the satellite link. A few of us already had laptops and wireless cards, so we pooled to buy an 802.11 access point, and a few others pooled to buy a batch of wireless cards and an assortment of older but quite usable laptops for community use. This is going quite well, and is perhaps the easiest project of all. A few die-hards insist on stringing cat 5 for 100 megabit connections to the server's hub, and that's fine. I've always liked the look of cables, and I'm sure I'll use it occasionally in the lab for moving really big files.

The rammed earth and found object dwelling I've been working on as my first private home and workspace is nearly finished. The crazy-nice guy down at the local junkyard seems happy to see me haul off the odd bits that I do on my bike trailer, and I always try to organize things for him a bit before I go. I bring him beer, smokes, and veggie sandwiches and he tells me his crazy hermit's tales. I've tried to explain to him the whole situation back home, but I think it would comfort him more if I just lied and told him that we worshipped the devil and danced naked in the moonlight. Well, a few people were dancing naked in the moonlight down in the wooded glade by the creek to the primal sounds of a small drum circle last full moon, but if anything they were worshipping Bacchus and the first batch of excellent beer.

My future home consists of a deeply banked, nearly underground layout not unlike a modest Hobbit's cave, if Bilbo's Bag End was constructed of found lumber, doors, panels, corrugated sheeting and a myriad of recycled products for insulation. Inside the floors and wainscots are neatly tiled with well-tamped split flagstones from the creek. There is no mortar, but any of the small gaps are filled and chinked with even thinner shards to finish the floor off into a uniform smoothness. It is quite pleasant to walk on barefoot. The final structural touches left to do are the small observatory tower and star-gazing loft and final details and troubleshooting of the insulation. Next I will work on furniture and cabinetry for living spaces and the workshop. After that I'll finish laying out the landscape designs above and beside it and start ground preparation.

Evenings after almost unbearably pleasant group meals have been spent either in raucous sing-alongs with grundoon and refugees from nanobot deathmatch, or in intense brainstorming sessions aided by materials from The Whole Earth Catalog, New Arcology, Buckminster Fuller, and Paolo Soleri and his Arcosanti project. We discuss a few more domes, for gardening and housing, for workshops. I think I've managed to drive home the idea that domes aren't all that nutty; they're very functional, efficient, and easy to construct. It's a shame they have the loopy new age image that they do, as they are really quite useful. Just because you have a geodesic dome doesn't mean you sleep under a teak-framed pyramid surrounded by quartz points and amethyst geodes listening to Ravi Shankar. Someone wants to build a ceramics studio and kiln, and we all heartily agree. Crockery is useful and saleable, not to mention therapeutic to make, and we talk about other saleable arts and crafts. Plans are in the works for a hybrid traditional-digital printmaking studio. We discuss various windmill solutions, Savinous vertical rotors, Venturi-ducted turbines for electrical power and direct mechanical power for moving water and milling. I want to build a 24" Dobsonian mount reflecting telescope and grind my own mirrors once the dust settles, and a few others want to join in and help me build it or build their own. I've never looked through a 24" reflector before. I've looked through a 16" once, and I could count the rings of Saturn with it and see the fine lace of the Crab Nebula like it was an iridescent doily in the palm of my hand.

You can see my bias here, though I enjoy the campfire sing-alongs and jam sessions, I live flesh-and-blood for the brainstorming. The idea of ideas is my oyster, my snug little pearlescent home. Irritants and problems only give me an excuse to make pearls. This particular evening we burn well into the night, people fading out left and right to go pass out with heads spinning with potential. A couple of gallons of beer and a few hours later, we're down to three, then two, then one, and I fidget alone with my laptop, everything and Google almost until dawn, eyes saucers of enchantment before I stumble off to my sleeping bag and camping pad in the corner.

As I struggle to doze off, a mantra: We're doing this. We're totally fucking doing this.

Someday after mastering winds, waves, tides and gravity, we shall harness the energies of love, and then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will discover fire.

- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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