Reform Luddism


Reform Luddism in action. Photo by Vladimir Kudinov courtesy of Unsplash.

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Open Source Education

GNU Not UnixIn the world of computing there is a whole class of stuff called "Open Source". It's built on the idea that things work out for everyone if stuff is freely available and people can choose what they wish to work on.

This works great, open source projects have revolutionized our world. The web is essentially an open source project, Google and Facebook run on top of open source systems, MacOS is built on another open source project, FreeBSD. Most digital watches (Linux kernel), cell phones (Linux again), smart phones (Android and iPhone both), and websites (Apache, PHP, MySQL) in the world run on Open Source based projects.

The thing is, when run on pure anarchy, open source projects quickly die. (It's true, anarchy's impractical) The most successful open source projects have what is jokingly referred to as a BDFL (Benevolent Dictator for Life). The idea is that even in a free environment there do have to be people at the top who make decisions, and keep things on track. In an open source environment the Benevolent Dictator is kept benevolent because of the knowledge that any person can take the entire project and setup their own version of it and do what they want (that's called forking). If the BDFL is a jerk, everyone takes their marbles a moves down the street.

Jake Von Slatt and his Wimshurst MachineOpen Source has been leaking into the real world. I am a part of something called the Maker movement, which is intent on taking back every day stuff, from toasters to TV's to cars; figuring out how to fix and modify them to fit us, and then share that knowledge. Many people characterize the Arab Spring as an essentially Open Source movement. The Tea Party and Occupy movements were at their start Open Source movements. (And no, I'm not trying to get political, go take that to someone who cares) Private Schools, the Voucher movement, and Charter Schools are attempts to take education Open Source.

Birchtree was started by a group of parents who put a whole lot of work into it. And I for one am disappointed. I see my wife and friends wholly demoralized, some are ready to move on, and others have. Are they the loud ones? Yeah. Do they think that 'fuck' is verbal garnish? Yeah. But they're also the ones who will literally work their hands to the bone. I am not going to give up. If, God forbid, we are pushed out, I will continue. I will, with those who are willing, fork this project and start up next door. But I do not want to do that.

To me this is the defining moment. Who and what is this school for? Earlier Stephanie (?) said that much of the problem was that we have people who are used to and expect an institutional setting and we need to educate them. Is it just another institution that consumes money, teaches to tests, guilts children into fund raisers and scares them at budget time? Or is it a community of students, teachers and families, (and yes a BD) that educates but stands for something more? I whole heartedly believe this. Window StarOur job is to take an active part in our children's rearing. Education is a major part of that. Building a community is essential.

Is this a protest group? Right now it is. But even in the first day we got over the complaining. Then we started making plans for our community, the Birchtree community. We're not trying to start a fight. We're not trying to tear anything apart. We're trying to participate in the school we started for our kids and ourselves.

BTW, you can't write a post about Open Source and not give props. The images I used are the GNU logo, Jake Von Slatt of the Steampunk Workshop, and a Window Star from my Wife's blog, Hey What's for Dinner Mom.

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this is where I need to introduce my Mantra for this year: Perfect is the enemy of done.

This is my wife's greenhouse that I started this last summer. I got about 80% done, and hit a brick wall. I couldn't figure out how/what to do to finish.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago I decide to take advantage a late December chinook (a mid-winter warming) to see what I could get done.

Wow, when I defined what needed to get done, and just figured out how to do it, it went great. I got the bottom walls on, finished the area above the doors, and more importantly, I cut a hole in the roof to install a wood stove.

After it got cold again, we tested out the stove, it works great, and got the little green hose up to about 70 degrees.

So now we can start our plants outside this year, and come summer, tomatos!

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What does {this} Steampunk look like?

I have tried to define steampunk. It doesn't work. I have tried to engage with people in other expressions of steampunk, such as cosplayers and literary types. Not to successful there either. They're fine people, but their trajectory is different. So I'm back to doing my own thing and calling it steampunk.

But what is that? And why is it steampunk instead of the half dozen other things?

Like many other late-wave steampunk makers, I came to steampunk in 2007 when Jake VonSlatt's keyboard went viral. I didn't need a definition. I'd been around Space 1889 (I don't play RPG's, but I love to read the rulebooks), read the Difference Engine and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Grokking steampunk as a subculture was no great leap.

Shiny. I couldn't get enough, I found what little was out there at the time, Jake VonSlatt, Datamancer, Vernian Process, Molly Porkshanks, Abney Park, Brass Goggles, and Steampunk Magazine.

In the last couple years I have felt a shift in how steampunk is viewed. So here's my line in the sand.  I don't accept that Steampunk is just about Cons, or props, or literature. If that's you're thing, it's fine. But to me steampunk is something more.

It's about doing my stuff, my way. It is about taking my life and my land and transforming it into something that's a little old, a little modern, thoroughly solid and tactile. It's about reviving old crafts and co-opting industrial methods for personal use. It's about caring about construction, and doing it right. Duct tape and hot glue are perfectly fine and useable materials, but they are not permanent and shouldn't be treated as such. It's about looking at new technologies,  and adapting them to me instead of me to them. It's about getting off the consumptive treadmill and using the things I already have that are still perfectly serviceable. It's about taking old technologies and evaluating them on equal footings with new ones. It's about creating, fixing, and adapting with an Arts and Crafts, and 19th industrial design aesthetic. Its about treating others with respect and gentility.

That is my Steampunk. You can't take that from me.



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This year’s goals

+ Finish greenhouse
+ build smithy
+ get and raise piglets
+ 3 iron pours
+ two 3 day period camping trips with boys
+ refinish kitchen
+ refinish first floor
+ expand pantry
+ root cellar

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Check in…

December was unusually full of projects, and not in the normal, get ready for Christmas sense either. Although there was plenty of that as well. I built a gravity feeder for the chickens, a new light and heater for the coop as well. Also several tool boxes, some garden hods. And today, taking advantage of an unforseen chinook, I worked on the greenhouse. All in all quite a productive month.

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Icons of the Creation

20120515-214522.jpgI love Orthodox icons of the creation. Here's a new one to me. The brightness and the implicit cosmology are awesome.

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Pretty things…

Some new tools recently acquired.


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Self-Sufficiency Sucks. Or know when to say when, then make a plan for next time.

This week I was defeated by our drains. After snaking the drain for 4 hours from every available drain, and renting a high powered water-snake I still could not undo the drain. Ended up having to call the drain guy. He charged $150, and had to come out twice. That's on top of $67 I spent renting a heavy duty snake. So what have I learned? Well so far that I need to come up with a plan to do it myself. A drain auger like the one he used seems to go for $500-$700. So I'd start recouping money on the 3rd drain clean out. We get bad backups about every 1.5 years, so we'd start seeing movement in 5 years. Worth it? Jury's still out.

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Change of Focus

A New Year and the end of a long standing project have freed me to change the focus of the blog. Or more correctly, refine it.

Since it's inception the ::ÆT:: was meant to be somewhat steampunk and somewhat diary. For the last year and a half it's been a bit of a Book review blog, but that project is thankfully over and now I can move on to what I want to do.

After about 2 and a half years of lurking I came out to the steampunk community a year and a half ago in the Great Steampunk Debate. Something I look back on with mixed feelings. I realized in the GSD that the scene was much bigger and different than I realized. So rather than just adopting an 'it's all good' attitude, I decided to try it out. I figured that since steampunk was originally a literary phenomenon I should actually see what that was about. Well, I've been there, and done that, and have reinforced my long standing interest in non-fiction. Cosplay doesn't interest me that much, but I am looking to go to a con in the next year so we'll see what that's all about.

I am a lifestyle/maker steampunk. That's what drew me to the scene, that's what has kept my interest.

But in the intervening time I discovered a few things that have cemented my niche and my general interest. I came across the definition of reform Luddite, I discovered both, and Steampunk Homesteading. This is my thing. It's what I've been going on about. One of the things that first drew me to steampunk was the idea that retro-aesthetics and current technology were not incompatible. The idea that things could be torn apart, rebuilt and work better than they started. That I could maintain a  positive view of science, technology, and new technologies, and still choose which ones worked for me and my community, and reject the others. Suddenly this becomes a beautiful pairing to my wife's love of the earth (by this I mean the dirt and our little corner of it), of a simple life, and self-sufficiency.

Anyway this is a long winded way of saying that I am going to devote this blog to Steampunk Homesteading and the melding of my reform luddite ways with my wife's wholesome ones.

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