Dec 15, 2009

Winter 2009- 2010

We have been here in Costa Rica since November 16, and have been working on details of construction like kitchen cupboards and painting. We expect visitors this weekend and will take the bus to San Jose to meet them at the airport. From there we will be going to the beach at Manuel Antonio National Park and then returning to Bello Oriente with them to enjoy our part of the country in the mountains.

Christmas here is an affair that begins 21 Deciembre and is celebrated until 4 Enero, with music, dancing, special foods, fireworks, and events in the ¨Salon de Toros¨that are appropriate adaptations of bull-fighting and rodeo events for a country that does not find violence attractive.

I have volunteered to help with the festivities, and look forward to the night when pretty girls in miniskirts get in to all events free.

Aug 24, 2009

"Beyond Compost"

I've finished writing a book on vermiculture, describing the system I've designed and developed for schools, greenhouses, and other medium-sized operations.

If you were to direct your local school principals to the link (over on the right):
it might inspire them to turn their lunchroom wastes into vermicompost.

Aug 3, 2009

Honduras, etc.

I hope that you have been following events in Honduras, as I have been. The situation in Honduras is the most serious threat to democracy in our hemisphere since Ronald Reagan. The mainstream news media seems to find tittilating entertainment figures more newsworthy.

In brief, the Honduran military General Valasquez (trained at our infamous "School of the Americas", at Fort Benning, Georgia) got miffed when he was fired by the Presidente (Zelaya)for refusing to obey an order, so he got a Supreme Court Judge to issue an arrest warrant. His overzealous underlings kidnapped the Presidente at gunpoint and put him on an airplane in his pajamas, and shipped him out to Costa Rica. In spite of a very vague Constitution allowing for three Vice Presidents, they had all quit, conveniently, to run for Presidente in November. That caused the next in line (Micheletti) to step up to the Presidency, however the rest of the world refuses to recognize the legitimacy of a succession created by a military coup. This has been a tiny bit of news now for a month and Zelaya is still trying to get back into Honduras.
(He is back now, under the protection of the Brazillian embassy)
Our USA position has been to allow the Latin Americans to sort this out by themselves in spite of us having 600 USA military troops stationed in Honduras since the reign of Ron Reagan and Ollie North, and our prior policy of domination and interference.

A recent tidbit, equally ignored, sheds some light on why it is taking so long for our USA State Department to declare this an official "military coup" which would require us to stop all funding of the illegitimate government. It seems that Mrs. Clinton is also the chair of Millenium Challenge, LLC which has been funnelling $6.5 million to the coup leaders since June 28. Hmmmm.

When we tell people that we spend our winters in Costa Rica, the first questions are about safety and security. This situation adds to the reputation of "banana republics" that has almost been wiped out. I hope that you are aware of Honduras.

Aug 2, 2009

On Virtual Change

As I write this I am 71 years old. It is 2009. About 25 years ago my sons and I brought home a loaner Commodore 64 “computer” that played ping-pong and some other things that were recorded on tapes. The kids were about 10 years old. The machine was a novelty for me, but in a very few years they became an essential tool for their generation. I learned a bit of Basic language, and I enjoyed the way it meshed with my earlier training in Algebra.

Long before this, I was exposed to military “mock-ups” that taught people to maneuver ships and fly jet planes without the expense and risk of involving real accidents. I tagged along as games became more interesting and realistic, and realized that some games were gaining potential for visualization of future planning for behaviors as well as for my field of construction. For years I have joined in discussions of how to initiate behavioral changes, with relatively little measurable success.

At this point, two things have blossomed in my mind. What began as a novel approach to designing a house, or learning to fly an airplane, has evolved into a technology where it is possible to become personally immersed into an entire new world. The experts insist that if a person can experience a change in behavior for about three weeks a new habit will be formed. Immersion in a virtual new world provides the opportunity to invoke changes by providing vicarious experiences that would be almost impossible to provide for large numbers of people at negligible cost. Imagine a world where “conflict resolution without resorting to violence” was the norm and was the basis for success, however that was defined. Early virtual worlds focused on silliness and violent behaviors to attract and stimulate children. It takes time for ideas to mature. I picture a time when my grandchildren will live, and interact, in at least one other world, moving out of one and into another as comfortably as stepping out of the door at home and entering their school environment. As a matter of fact, the potential exists to do exactly that. Education may evolve into elimination of buildings and campuses and become interactively available worldwide without opening the front door. The hazards are obvious, but not insurmountable. Misdirection and misinformation are not strangers to our present methods. I would go on and describe uses that virtual reality is being used for virtual surgery, etc. but as fast as my two fingers will type there are new applications rising. The greatest risk is that of logical assumptions leading to “unintended consequences”; that IF a certain behavior is chosen, THEN a certain result will always occur in “real life”. Part of the maturation of this concept requires field testing of each parameter, and recognizing that a certain percentage of each behavior will have an unpredictable anomalous outcome.

The second thought is the reason I say “grandchildren”. As recent as my latest high school reunion, I discovered that less than half of the people I know in my generation even use e-mail regularly. My children use the available tools as they arrive at tested usefulness, but my grandchildren use the new technologies as quickly as they become available, “warts and all”. Also, the infrastructure of worldwide application is only becoming available to the developing world and not yet available to the poorest of the poor.

Many of our “industrialized” behaviors must change, and quite soon, if we are to avoid the consequences of economic disparity. We claim to desire “democracy” in the world while thoughtlessly accepting that 86% of those worldwide potential voters live on less than $2 a day. We can only support our capitalist idealism by disenfranchising most of the other inhabitants. We have allowed anonymous corporate ownership to replace the former responsibility of personal capitalism. Most of us have been duped into believing that our current anonymous capitalistic system still encourages invention and innovation, which it does not. The present system is only interested in return on investment which ultimately encourages concentration of power and control and which restricts and resists experimentation.

We have sufficient resources to support “happiness” throughout the world, but generating the political will to enable serious behavioral change is going to require more than nice words. Walking in the other guy’s virtual moccasins will be a way to understand the task in front of us, instinctively, without having to actually send each of us to another continent.

Apr 21, 2009

We have returned to Hastings, Michigan, USA, and it is cold and wet. Next year, God willing, we will stay in Bello Oriente a while longer. I can use the extra time in Costa Rica for planting trees and flowers.
In addition to planting fruit trees and ornamental flowers (bougainvillea, etc) I was able to secure a dozen protected Ronron seedlings and transplanted some Poro seedlings from the jungle down below. Both will become forest giants and are supposed to grow about one meter per year.

My rainwater collection system is a huge success, so I will continue to expand it. It supplies us with extremely soft water for our electrical water heating showerhead, and will eventually store enough water to flush our toilets automatically.

Right now, the single 50-gallon storage tank isn't big enough for toilet flushing so we carry pails of water from the overflow tank on the other side of the house for flushing. I have 3 plastic tanks and one steel drum to hook up next year. A political glitch keeps us from having enough pressure in the public water system to reach beyond the half-way point of our driveway, so we fill bottles for drinking and cooking. The good side is that we have become very aware of the amount of water it takes to perform various tasks and conserve out of necessity rather than out of environmental enthusiasm.

Flushing toilets with drinking water now seems so irresponsible.

Feb 2, 2009

Verano: The Dry Season

After the November rains subsided, the dry season began. It has now become too dry to plant anything with much hope for success. Even seedlings that are watered have to get daily attention. Most of my time is spent painting and building furnishings, and hacking away at the long grass that grows waist high when you don't allow cows to graze what has become pastureland. I can buy tree seedlings for only 40-cents each, but the limitation is that a small garden plot must be cleared for each one. The good news is that I am strong and healthy and the exercise will make me live longer and enjoy the growing forest longer. When I walk down to the bus stop, I am inspired by the work of Dr. Lynn Carpenter who has grown a jungle right across the highway from me.
I am planting papaya, oranges, lemons and bananos. I probably won't harvest much of this, and fruit is very cheap to buy. The other trees are a selection of large growth forest specimens. Some are protected. I have been promised a single seedling of Ceiba(Kapok), and will build a protection for it to keep it from being trampled by cows that may stray in while it is growing. The planting will wait until just before I return in April so the rainy season can work for me in my absence.