North by Northeast


The Most Inspirational Thing You’ll See This Month
12 March, 2008, 9:59 pm
Filed under: dreams (not literal), General

If this doesn’t renew your hope for humanity, nothing will. Backing music by Jazz guru Herbie Hancock doesn’t hurt, but soon you’ll forget he’s even back there.

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.ted.com posted with vodpod

35 Minutes, but what are you doing anyway? Really.



Oh, The College Life…
8 June, 2006, 7:17 pm
Filed under: dreams (not literal), observations

In Jess’s last post, she laments the college lifestyle that is now just a memory…

I ask my college friends if they long for Wednesday night 3 am bedtimes, dining hall food, and people watching on the quad, and they look at me like I have three heads. Why do I miss that life so much? Am I the only one?

I’d have to agree. Although I’m only a five or so years removed from college, I must say that living in the dorms with your friends, infinite social and recreational activities (and intramural sports) and having a dining hall are probably about as good as it gets.

There’s good news… we’ll obtain that life again… when we get to the old-folks home. Until then, I guess we’ll just have to make due with the “real world.”

One alternative to the real world can bring some of the benefits of the college social experience, if you have a few good friends that want to live near you. This is something that’s been ruminating in my head over the last year or so. Living in an urban setting as I have for the past few years has its benefits and frustrations alike. Amanda and I have decided that we are probably not city people for the long haul and will need to move out to more open spaces to grow our family.

One thing that has bothered us is that much of the open spaces that have been important to our landscape have more and more frequently been carved up and sold to developers. The classic example of this would be the New England small (and usually family) farm. They soon become housing developments with cute street names that usually refer to what was bulldozed to put the asphalt down and the micro-McMansions up.

My idea was to gather a group of open-and like-minded friends who are looking to find a good place for their family and buy one of these closed farms before a developer can swoop in. Now, we’re no farmers, and we don’t intend to be any either.

The idea is to preserve the open space, and to be its preserver. The idea I think would take three or four families. They would come together to form a cooperative, non-profit land owning entity. They would pool their resources to purchase the land. They would assess the property to see if existing structures can be reused in any way (via a remodel, or a dismantling and reuse of materials). They would then assess the land to see how to erect houses for all the families in a way that has the least impact on the land, minimal removal of natural features etc. In my head, I see the houses being spread apart along the periphery of the property, and thus having maximum privacy and maximum open surrounding lands. The houses would be accessed by gravel farm-style roads.

The land in the middle would be used appropriately. If there are farmers who could use the land, perhaps a corn field or Apple orchard would be the central feature, rented by local farmers. Organic, of course. If the land was not farmed using organic techniques before, it would be rehabilitated, first. Of course the smell of natural fertilizer would take getting used to. Also, in my head this place would not be a livestock farm, just agricultural.

In addition, a few more common elements would benefit the inhabitants of the land. Each house would make maximum use of renewable resources. Each house being equipped with solar (and perhaps wind, if appropriate) equipment the coop could wire their houses together for maximum efficiency – so if one house was over drawing its resources, they could pull on another’s unused resources. Traditionally, with these types of electrical setups, the house would traditionally buy that excess from the utility company… but instead they can count on their neighbor. We’d still maintain the ability to pull from the local grid, and when we create excess power than can not be used with in the coop, it would be sold to the local utility. Local utilities already have this capability. The only difference is that we’d pull from each other first.

Second common benefit would be internet and media access. Since internet providers generally object to sharing household connections, we would pool our resources and purchase one business line (at minimum, one T1) to be shared within the farm. A central server and router would distrubute everything, a copper or fiber backbone would connect the houses so that they might share media, etc. Interfamily movie night? Pull the video from the server! Television over IP (or satellite if IPTV is not available) and Voice over IP (VoIP) would also be a perfect compliment. Lastly, wireless access across the farm would go without saying. 🙂

Even with the common area possibly being used for agriculture, there would also be an interfamily garden. Cheap and plentiful vegetables. Less work since we have many times the hands. Perhaps if there’s a lot of excess, beyond canning, etc, a farm-stand for the kids to run in the summer. Speaking of kids, if all families had kids of common ages, the family could buy into common day care / after-school care. It would benefit both the families by reducing this very pricey expense, and benefit a nannying professional (I think I just made that professional title up?) by pooling a couple of families children and thus getting paid more without a ton more work… a founding principal of this dream is that children should have open spaces to roam when growing up. Space to ride a bike away from busy roads is important. A swing hanging from a large tree. Amanda and I both had this advantage (although her, more than I). If we had some single friends who wanted in, but don’t foresee married life, they could possibly buy into a common residence. This environment would also be healthy for pets, too.

Some people will read all of the above and thing I’m some sort of communist. I just see this as a way of working together, without really infringing on the private lives of the families. Hopefully, the inhabitants would be good friends and want to gather for the occasional interfamily meal, carpools, etc… but for the libertarian in me, there would be plenty of built in processes for keeping the families privacy in the forefront. There would be pre-proscribed ways to sell your stake in the land back to the coop or to a third-party if certain conditions were met. Essentially, a prenuptial agreement among the parties. If all get along great, then it will be all the better for all involved. It would be the embodiment of the saying “it takes a village.”

There’s a lot more to this of course, like finding land that fits the requirements, and none of this works if employment cannot be had locally. Working from home might be good for some. In our area, I think the rural-ish central Mass area near Worcester would be the best place currently for this type of arrangement. Close enough to a mid-major-metro area, close enough to a major-metro area. Enough access to services that would support the ideas provided here (small organic farmers, builders with knowledge of progressive techniques, high-tech broadband is readily available and technicians able to set up the networking).

Just a thought. Hopefully I’ll add to this idea in future posts.



If I had the time
30 April, 2006, 1:36 pm
Filed under: dreams (not literal), music

This will be the first in a number of posts where I will ponder, what would I do if money were not a factor and I could do anything I want with my time. This is in no particular order, so just since this is the first such post, it doesn’t mean I want to do this the most, it just happens to be the one I thought of today, when I decided I’d post this type of thing to my new blog.

Today’s “If I had the time…”

I would buy an electric bass and amp, plus a vibraphone to complement my existing drum set, and a set of mics for all the above. Then I would record my own music (that’s always playing in my head) with something like GarageBand, or if I grew out of that, move up to something like Logic.