Weekend Linkdump

Just some things that have caught my attention this week.  Explore and enjoy.


Harvesting Sage and Feeding Worms

The sage I nabbed from the park last month has now well and truly tried, so today I harvested it.  I now have myself a nice little bowl of dried sage, to add to soups and any other recipe I like.

Mr Spock and the Cat Police

How overthinking the meaning of cat ownership may have made me sociopath, and other musings.

Local Democracy (Part Two)

In which I start to hassle my newly elected representative...

A Quick Celebration of the Butternut Squash

My apologies for my recent lapse in blogging.  It's something I intend to get back into the swing of this weekend.  In the meantime, I'd like to invite you to take a few moments to celebrate with me the wonders of butternut squash.

Herbs and shoots



It's been very satisfying to be able to pot this cutting this afternoon. I took it from the parent plant a few weeks ago, not really sure if it would do anything or not, but it sprouted a healthy young root system in the water, which has been now begging for earth. I obliged.

Making Bonemeal While Vegan

Sometimes I work in a cafe.  This cafe is not vegan, but I am.  I actually quite enjoy working there: it pays minimum wage, the other people who work there are cheerful and straightforward, you do the job, you clean up, and you go home.  It's simple and (the non-vegan-ness notwithstanding) you're doing some good for the world.  The cafe belongs to the organisation I work for on a slightly more regular basis in a bureaucratic capacity, which is a care provider for people with disabilities.  The customers at the cafe are service users and their carers, so you meet some interesting people and don't have to deal too much with the "general public", which is something I'm not very good at and really do not enjoy.  Sometimes I feel more fulfilled, making Christmas cards with the mentally ill...


The Cost of Living: May 2017

Last month was a "no buy" month.  This month was not.  And I'm back in the red...

Bank Holiday Monday Linkdump

I haven't done quite as much internetting as normal the past week and a bit, mainly with my all-too-brief trip to Canada wreaking havoc on my body clock, quite unexpectedly, several days after I landed back on home soil to find the city I've called home for the past 12 years was attacked by a terrorist.  I may or may not have more to say on that subject in due course, though I don't really know what.  I attended the vigil in Albert Square on Tuesday evening, just as the crowd broke out into a spontaneous chant of "Manchester! Manchester! Manchester!" which I suppose sums the whole thing up as well as anyone ever could.  There's an eerie calm in the city centre; some tension with the noticeable increase in police presence - some of it heavily armed - Victoria Station and most of Corporation Street remain inaccessible, and there's a growing stack of flowers and other tributes around the edge of the Arena.  It's tempting to want to make sense of the whole thing, but of course it doesn't make sense; to find meaning in evil, but of course there isn't any.


Links concerning the attack:

Useful idiots in their own context (we all have our part to play) the Ministry of "Defence" confirmed that the picture of a bomb with "Love from Manchester" written on it was genuine, and came from a plane to be launched in Cyprus, from which previous airstrikes against ISIS have been launched.  Lovely bombs make the bad people go away.

But to the point.  Some other links:

Articles:

The new Blue Frontier - an enticing update on "seasteading" at The European

Music:

There's an dusty corner of the blogosphere dedicated to music that is actually good or interesting (and sometimes both).  Lots of great music blogs haven't been updated for years, but that's fine because they still exist, and many of their links are still active, leaving you more than enough aural rabbit holes to tumble down.  no longer forgotten music is posting prolifically, and has a nice big juicy blogroll that I suggest you get your teeth into.

Have a pleasant bank holiday Monday.  Imagine if banks took a lot more holidays.  One  a week, say.  I don't think that would be so bad.

Travelling Light

I landed at 9:55am and sped through customs. Having no checked baggage to wait for made this easy. I flashed my passport to the powers that be and that was that: home.


Musings for Airports

Everything is interesting.  Everything is ambient.

Mistakes on a Plane

Lufthansa and Air Canada's vegan options are...somewhat limited.  Life is absurd.

Sunday Linkdump

Some things that have come to my attention this week.

Indoor garden update

Look I made a video.

Individually packaged sugar portions are stupid, and so are you, so am I, and so is everything else in world

A night shift became available suddenly last night, so on the way in I decided to treat myself to a coffee, even though I said I should probably stop doing that. Anyway, it caught my attention in doing so how Costa have adopted a policy of offering 25p off the price of your takeaway coffee if you bring your own reusable cup. This is surely a good thing, if it encourages people not to use disposable coffee cups, and might even signify the first inklings of high street giants of the potential profits to be made from the zero waste demographic. Naturally, however, I have a number questions.

My First 'Zero Waste' Weekend

Strawberry Gardens forever...

Friday is a market day in Bury, so I made it my mission to explore for the first time with my "zero waste" goggles on.  Results were...mixed, but encouraging.

What is a meal? (And other difficult questions)


Don't be greedy with your ingredients.  In greedy ents.

Another Green Afternoon

Sunday afternoon I was back at Sarah and Jon's for part two of our exciting gardening adventure (part one is here).  It was a glorious afternoon, and the seeds we planted two weeks ago have all begun to sprout. This made me feel happy.

Sarah was disappointed with the progress of the mustard seeds, but I think they're doing fine. I don't think they're necessarily a 'grow bag' sort of plant though. I think they'll sprout just as well in shallower soil, and might not even need as much sun as they've been getting.

Taking the Zero Waste Plunge

In which I ponder the possibility of never eating beans on toast ever again.

Energy and the Election

Riding on the bus this morning, taking full advantage of the free WiFi now available on most public transport in Greater Manchester, I happened to glance at the time. 6:57am.  What the heck, I wondered to myself, I'll tune in to the Today Programme and catch the so-called "headlines".

A Bit More Foraging

In a post a few weeks ago, I celebrated the joy of living near a park.  More and more I find myself drawn to plants, to trees, to gardens and parks, and to the people who appreciate and maintain them.  Gardeners are wise, peaceful and interesting people, every single one of them (probably).  George Harrison (no less) dedicated his autobiography "to gardeners everywhere".  The other day I was chatting to a wise older lady about allotments in Manchester.  She has had hers for years.   She knew all about gardening. She new about a lot of things.  You could see it in her eyes somehow.
George Harrison: fond of plants.

Vegan Reading and Research

Writing a book is hard work, and hard work is really not what I'm all about.  But I do want to write a book, so focus and a degree of self-discipline are required.  Today, my 'writing day' (or one of them) I've been sorting through my library of ebooks and pdfs, and categorising the ones I need to read.  I think this will help to focus my mind on how I'm going to organise my own book, if I group materials and read them together, rather than tumbling down every rabbit hole I find in the bibliographies, for which I've a terrible weakness.

European Ecovillage Conference 2017

I'm hoping I can scrimp and scrape together enough funds to attend the 2017 European Ecovillage Conference in Ängsbacka, Sweden in July.  Keynote speaker is none other than Charles Eisenstein, a writer whose book Sacred Economics explores the issues of gift and sharing economies, and the labyrinth of ecological and political questions that relate to such ideas, and about which I gushed before I'd actually finished reading it, in a post all the way back in August.  (I've since finished it, and my gushing was entirely merited).

Sunday Linkdump

I've been coming round to the idea recently that perhaps the internet has done as much harm as good.  Perhaps some emergent digital Abraxas out in the cyber ether has been conspiring all along, for reasons mysterious, to maintain a kind of balance between good and evil over the fulcrum of access.  Whatever you're looking for, somewhere on the internet, you can almost certainly find it.  Or at least someone else who wants to talk about it.  Perhaps there's only two of you in the entire world.  Before the internet came to be, the chances of you ever finding each other, of even knowing each other existed, were effectively zero.  This is no longer true.  And there are 7.5 billion people in the world.  So the chances there are only two of you are very low indeed.  Consider that.

Anyway, in exploring the worlds (to list just a tiny sample) of environmentalism, veganism, sustainability, frugality, tiny houses, communitarianism, dumpster diving, ecology, green anarchism, zero waste, vermiculture, indoor gardening, permaculture, SEO, minimalism, transhumanism, space exploration, renewable energy, degrowth, socialism, anarcho-capitalism and various shades of libertarianism; seasteading, global collapse - I inevitably collect more links than I know what to do with, except file away for some nebulous 'later' that never arrives.  So it occurred to me a periodic linkdump here on my blog might be in order.  Perhaps once a week, on a Sunday.  Perhaps more often, perhaps less.  Consequently, here's a few.  Explore and enjoy.

Paying Not to Die

My water bill came a few weeks ago, I thought it might be an idea to pay it.  So I did, because that's what you do with bills.  The bill was for £98.40 and covered the period from 17th December to 21st April, which is 138 days.  138 ÷  98.4 = 1.402439, meaning it cost £1.40 a day to have clean, running water plumbed into my home for the period in question.

This all seems reasonable enough, until you start looking at it without conventional capitalist blinkers. United Utilities made an "operating profit" of £567.9m last year.  Think about that: for collecting, processing and providing water, and (presumably) playing some role in the maintenance of the infrastructure required to do so, United Utilities made over half a billion pounds.  Water is something no life would exitst without.  It is, by definition, essential.  Periodically, it falls out of the sky above most of the populated areas of the planet,  indifferent to our concerns, and totally outside of our control.  And profit-making corporations charge us money to access it.  It makes total sense, but it's also totally insane.

Propagated Bolted Cabbages Experiment Success Rate: Low

Unfortunately, of the five cuttings I took from my "bolted" cabbages last week, only one has survived.  It looks like this:


Let's call that a 20% success rate.  Unsatisfactory, but it will still be interesting to see what becomes of this new plant.

No Buy April: The Results


Reality seems to be conspiring against me not to blog about my "No Buy April" experiment.  I just logged in to blogger only to find a second version of the post I had almost finished, after my first mysteriously vanished from my drafts just as I was about to publish it, has also vanished.  This is unsatisfactory.  The idea was for a much longer post about reviving my "cost of living" monthly series, that petered out  last year, to muse on various related issues (personal and impersonal) and bring things back up to speed.  But I'm buggered if I'm writing all that again, and I've already started to map out a writing/posting schedule for this month, so it'll have to wait.  Without further ado, and before it disappears a third time down the blogspot gremlin's post hole or whatever, here's how I managed my "No Buy April".

Local Democracy (Part One)

The government in their infinite wisdom have decided that now is the right time to call a General Election, since as anyone who was paying attention in 2016 will attest, asking the electorate to make decisions in their own best interests is something that always turns out well.  There is some speculation as to reason why the Prime Minister chose now to call an election, three years earlier than legally required (a plausible explanation is that it was a tactical move designed to solidify Theresa May's hold on power, as 30 sitting Conservative MPs face potential prosecution for electoral fraud in 2015 - MPs who, if found guilty, would lose their seats, triggering by-elections which might then result in the government losing their parliamentary majority).  No doubt a tangled web of reasons is being woven in the minds of the powers that be even now, as the preposterous process of mediated campaigning gets underway, one to which you and I will never be privy, and probably wouldn't want to be, but down here in the so-called "real" world, time ticks along from one day to the next as lineally as it always has.

Kitten Proof Indoor Pea Farming

If you like a challenge, I can recommend sharing your indoor gardening space with two young, excitable and endlessly curious kittens.  These two little terrors came into my life last November, right around the time I was starting to make preparations for growing food in my modest, gardenless flat.



They love to attack each other, almost as much as they like to attack my shoes.  They're brother and sister, and while they might not be compatible entirely with my longer term plans they're a joy to have around for now.

War wounds.


Anyway, something they've really developed a fondness for is eating my plants.  This is fine, up to a point (and it beats being attacked in bed, which is the other, almost as effective way they've found of communicating that they're hungry).  But when those plants are ones I'm growing in order to eat, I've had to come up with more creative ways to keep them away.


GRRRRRR


Today I’d scheduled an excellent post that revived my “cost of living” series to report back on the results of my “No Buy April” experiment.  For some reason, however, it has disappeared.  This is annoying.  I will now have to rewrite the whole thing.  This will take some time.  Most unsatisfactory  While you are waiting, here are some pictures of trees to look at, and a short video, taken yesterday evening.  








Be happy today.

Recycled Tin Can Lavender Nursery

In his 1992 book, The Intellectuals and the Masses, John Carey documents the contempt in which the early twentieth century literati held mass produced, tinned food:
E. M. Forster’s Leonard Bast eats tinned food, a practice that is meant to tell us something significant about Leonard, and not to his advantage. The Norwegian Knut Hamsun waged intermittent war in his novels against tinned food, false teeth and other modern nonsense. T. S. Eliot’s typist in The Waste Land ‘lays out food in tins’. John Betjeman deplores the appetite of the masses for ‘Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans’. Tinned salmon is repeatedly a feature of lower-class cuisine in Graham Greene....George Orwell, in The Road to Wigan Pier, maintains that the First World War could never have happened if tinned food had not been invented. He blames tinned food for destroying the health of the British people. ‘We may find in the long run that tinned food is a deadlier weapon than the machine gun.’
I can't think of a better reminder of how quickly and easily the controversial and provocative can transition to the essential  and mundane than this.  Who today doesn't use tinned food?  And have you ever heard of anyone speak of it with any kind of emotional attachment at all?  If you have, I suggest finding yourself some new circles to move in, before it's too late for all of us.

Propagating Bolted Cabbages (If that's even the right word) - An Experiment


Today I thought I'd do something about the state of my indoor cabbages.


These are all taken from previously used cabbages, the ends of which I'd kept in water for some time before planting in soil, similar to how I have retained my leeks and on which I may blog in more detail later.


They've done better than I expected on the shelf space I'm planning to use for a much more substantial and productive vertical growing space in the future.  Here they're receiving some direct sunlight (this picture was taken quite early this morning, on an overcast day, hence the shadiness) but I fear they've reached the limit of what they can do under such conditions.

Leafy enough in parts, and they've added a little extra green to a few meals the past week or so, but they're starting to behave quite eccentrically.  Some of them didn't look very well at all:

Another Walk in Another Park

Tonight I'm off to my best friend's to drink wine and have great conversation.  Nothing else is on the agenda before then, so I decided to spend as much time as I possibly could around plants.  To this end, I took myself off to Fletcher Moss, Didsbury.

Didsbury isn't really in Manchester.  Well, it is, but it doesn't feel like it is.  If you know Manchester at all, you know what I'm talking about.  Let's just leave it at that.

Contemporary Worm Management Solutions

Back in January I posted about my home wormery, so if you read that post, perhaps you'd be interested in an update on how things are going with the little wrigglers.  There's no way to make posts about vermiculture sexy, so I'm not going to try.  You have to plunge your hands into the smelly, sticky earth to reap the benefits of worm composting, and that's just all there is to it.  Either you're into that, or not.  But plenty of people are.  So anyway, here's a quick video I just made:


Oh, and for the purposes of this post, I made some tweaks to my YouTube channel, such as it is, and linked it back to this blog.  Might start posting more actually useful videos there in the future, if anyone's interested?

How to Re-Grow Leeks

Leeks are a dense and tasty vegetable that are well suited to European climates, and have been used in Britain probably since Roman times.  (Google "history of leeks".  Go on.  Aren't you even curious?)  I feel they're a very underused vegetable.  Leek and potato soup?  That's about it.  In fact they're something you can add to any soup, stew, casserole or other concoction, with or without potatoes.  I've even tried them grilled a few times, sliced vertically and with a bit of olive oil and salt, and never regretted it.

Consider the Toilet

No Buy April is drawing to a close, and one thing I can be certain I will have saved on is laundry expenses. I can't think of any way round having to wear clean clothes at least some of the time, and so a big box of washing powder was one of my 'essential purchases' at the start of the month. Five days left, and there's still plenty of washes to be had out of the 2.6kg box of Daz I helped myself to for a respectable £5.00. One trip to the launderette every 10-14 days was previously costing me £4.00 a pop (more if I used the dryers) so there's an obvious saving of at least £3.00 for the month. Little things, my friends. Little things.

One lesson that stuck in my mind after my trip to Brighton Earthship last summer was how much water is wasted in modern housing, to the benefit of nobody.  While water is of course an essential element of life, the use of totally clean water is essential only for certain purposes, and yet in modern architecture, all incoming water comes from a single source, whether it's used for drinking, washing, cooking or sewage.  Earthships incorporate the recycling of water into their design, so that rainwater is collected, used for drinking and cooking when it's fresh, recycled and filtered to be used as 'grey water' for plants and in plumbing, and finally recycled again as 'black water' for sewage.  It then returns to the earth, and re-enters the water cycle naturally, causing little if any pollution or waste.  Obvious when you think about it, but hardly anyone ever does.

The Game of Evil

What I want and what I aspire to become are two different things.  Obviously, since one is the present and the other concerns the future: peace of mind, perhaps, belongs to those for whom the present and the future are the same.

Probably not the next Prime Minister
I was chatting to my friend Nicola the other day about this blog, the upcoming General Election, and the overall shittiness of the political landscape, among other things, and she suggested the idea of me becoming a "lifestyle blogger", living off the ad revenue generated by clicks from my millions of loyal subscribers.  Now there are a lot of words that make me cringe - and that's probably something I need to work on (too much cringing is not good for the soul) - and "lifestyle" is most certainly one of them.  I've had a kind of motto rattling around in my head for I don't know how long that goes, you can have a lifestyle, or you can have a life, but you can't have both.  It's just a thought, one that can lead you down various psychic rabbit holes, and not one I'd say I actually believe (or don't believe) but one that bubbled up in the course of our conversation anyway.  The commodification and fetishisation of the mundane is something I utterly detest.  Nobody talks about it much (Guy Debord killed himself - nobody talks about that much, either) and one reason for that, I think, is its ubiquity.  You can't see your own eyes.  

Probably the next Prime Minister.
Same as the old Prime Minister.
What could be more symptomatic of late stage capitalism than to mine the drudgery of the everyday in search the last, untouched corners of reality to turn into money?  Here's a video of someone giving you a "tour" of her kitchen and, specifically, of her fridge.  It was 5.7 million views.  She has 8.2 million subscribers.  She has published a cookbook, which was a New York Times bestseller in the 'Advice, How-To and Miscellaneous' category in November 2015.  There is of course nothing wrong with this.  I'm just pointing out that it is something that it is actually happening in real life.  Online "content creators" (here comes the cringe again) seem to be doing very well for themselves.  YouTube's recent tweaks to its advertising policy led to a decline in revenue for other many creators and, of course, helped to generate thousands of hours of exciting new content.  Sometimes at night I lie awake and wonder if the government counts YouTubers when it's calculating unemployment figures.  No really.  I do that.

Anyway I'm getting on a bit now, so all of this probably appears stranger to me than it actually is.  (I still don't really understand what 'Gamergate' is (or was?)  Also apparently there's a fourth wave of feminism, and I'm only vaguely aware of just how much Oxford's conflation of with students not making eye contact with racism, is going to generate lots and lots more angry content.  Apparently this targets autistic people, too, which I can imagine the internet is not going to like at all).  Here's me.  I started a blog in 2016.  That's what you kids do nowadays isn't it?

And it takes me five paragraphs before I can even get to the point.  My knees hurt.  My thumbs hurt.  What time is it?  I don't know, and I don't know how to think about the fact that I thought I'd give advertising on my blog a shot.  It feels a bit like pissing in the face of the spirit in which I started this blog in the first place.  Maybe it is.  So for now I'm just telling myself it's an "experiment".  Or a game.  To see if I actually generate any money from hosting advertising on my blog, now that I'm gaining a moderately respectable amount of "traffic" (cringe no. 3)  I've been tweaking my adsense settings so that (hopefully) I don't host anything unconscionable: ads in the "property", "finance" and "beauty and personal care categories" (cringes no. 4, 5 and 6) have all been blocked.  How effective this is remains to be seen.  Nicola very kindly clicked on some ads right as we were chatting, generating me approximately 35 pence, which isn't exactly enough to live on, but it's a start.  I don't think asking you to click on ads is allowed, so I'm not asking you do that.  Please don't click on any ads.  Or do, if you want me to help my generate lots of exciting new content.

All ads are evil, but some are more evil than others.


Don't forget to like, share, subscribe and scream desperately into the void.

The Open Air

Sunday was a good day.  Maybe it was the spontaneous, unorthodox breakfast I russelled myself up.  Admittedly, it wasn't all that filling, but I'm a firm believer in having vegetables for breakfast.  Why don't we do that?  For whatever reason, some foods are 'breakfast foods', and some are not.  Bollocks to that.  Try having vegetables for breakfast tomorrow.  See how it feels.

Anyway, with all that green goodness inside of me, I decided to spend the morning on the move.  The plan was to go over to my friends' Sarah and Jon, who recently moved to Farnworth, about 6 miles away from me, in the afternoon and spend some time in the garden, seeing what we could do with it.  It's hit me recently just how much I enjoy being around plants - a thought so simple I'm having trouble processing it - so just the idea of being given the chance to be part of shaping someone else's garden (lacking any outdoor space of my own) is one that brings me real joy.  But I'm getting ahead of myself...

A Walk in the Park

Never overlook the joy that might be found right on your front doorstep.  I popped out just now to old school spam some local letter boxes with OLIO leaflets (sorry?) and found myself wandering down a street adjacent to the side of Clarence Park, only to discover said park is quite considerably larger than I realised.  Hey, it's only been seven months since I moved here.

So I had myself a wander.

Home Grown Green Breakfast Stir Fry

This morning I woke up hungry, as I sometimes do, and decided to try a little experiment: to construct a breakfast using only ingredients I have grown at home.  This limited my options somewhat, but here's what I russelled up:
As part of a balanced diet
 Behold, a nutritious green breakfast stir fry!  Ingredients: leeks, cabbage, spring onions, sage and chives.  Here it is a few moments later, in a bowl:

It's all in the presentation

First Pea Pod!

I'm happy this morning because I spotted the first pea pod growing. It's the simple things.

Reading list, and other tweaks

If you'd care to glance over to the left hand side bar of this blog (if you're using mobile or reading elsewhere than on blogger, please go to the main page and you'll see what I'm on about) you'll see I've started to gather a 'Reading List' together. This is really just a linkdump, for longer articles, books and papers, may or may not have always read myself, but which have captured my attention and relate in some way or other to the things I ponder on this blog. I invite you to explore.
I also set up a new Twitter account on which to gather my thoughts relating to the themes of my book, which you can follow at @veganimp. This is just a place to gather my thoughts in a slightly more organised way, using the 140 character limit to keep the thoughts concise. I'll also post links to things I'm reading there too, when I feel like it.
@jonnyopinion by the way, is just where I piss about. See right sidebar for details.
Also, if there's any readers I haven't given access to my 'library', which is where I throw every epub or pdf I can get hands on, please get in touch with your email address and I'll send you a link to view. There's so much to read, and so much time to read it in.
Cheers.

Also available on Medium.

This blog is now mirrored on Medium, if you like that sort of thing. Please follow me there, or here, or just as you wish.

Imagining No Possessions (Part Two)

Now what?

Last week the story that Lord Simon Wolfson, the chief exec of 'Next', had been moaning about "millennial shoppers" and their diminishing enthusiasm for spending money on material things (Next clothing in particular, we can safely assume) in favour of spending instead on "experiences", fell across my radar.  As you would expect from such a person, he expressed the "problem" entirely in terms of numbers.  According to "the latest figures from Barclaycard" (standard bedtime reading for a chief executive, probably) "expenditure in restaurants shot up in the last three months of 2016 compared with the previous year" with similar rises in spending on "entertainment, such as going to the cinema".  All this apparently leaves our multimillionaire hero "'extremely cautious' about the outlook for the rest of 2017".  Not "extremely cautious" in a parents-of-the-3-million-plus-children-in-the-UK-who-live-in-poverty kind of a way, I assume, but extremely cautious nonetheless.  More a perhaps-he'll-decide-not-to-use-his-bonus-to-plug-the-pay-gap-between-him-and-his-employees-this-year kind of a way.  Which, of course, he has every right to do, doesn't he?  Or not to do.

Now there's no need for me to go down that road to make the point I want to make here.  Some people are multimillionaire chief executives of successful businesses.  Personally I don't begrudge them that (much) and I've never much cared for the neo-socialist vitriol spewed at "The 1%" (TM) as if the inequality that exists between them and the rest of us were always, by definition, their fault.  I'm more interested in the assumptions underneath this type of thinking - assumptions expressed in Lord Wolfson's comments, on the right (he's a Tory peer, believe it or not) as well as in the standard criticisms of "wealth inequality" that we hear repeated ad nauseum, and without much reflection, on the left.  Crudely put, those assumptions boil down to this: some people have too much money, while the rest of us have too little, and if the have-too-muches would only share with the have-too-littles (voluntarily or otherwise), everything would be much better for everyone.  There'd be no more multimillionaires (boo hoo) but no more children in poverty either.  Utopia achieved.  Hooray.

Whether or not this is true does not concern me in the least.  I have lost all taste for the bitter back-and-forth between left and right on such matters as 'entitlement', 'equality', and 'wealth'. As if all that politics was really about was who gets how much money, when, and why.  As if all that really mattered was not whether or not we are spending money at all, but only what we spend it on.  (Note the fetishisation of capital-E 'Experience' is just as prominent in consumer culture as the fetishisation of stuff, and that we are all just as susceptible to it).  I'm trying to imagine a world beyond money, a world where value - real value - is contained in something much more, well, real than the means of exchange. More real, even, than the things themselves being exchanged.

And it's a terrible irony that in our slouching towards Utopia we came to value anything else. But that's what happened, and here we are, in the empty pursuit of objects, and of the means by which to acquire more objects. Even our experiences become objects, memories to accumulate and 'share' with 'friends' - people with whom the only thing we really share is envy.  We can do better than this. We haven't quite worked out how yet, but we will. We have to.

Today I reached a kind of milestone. I got rid of the last of my excess stuff.

Stuff, bags thereof.

There's a very handy little app called 'Gone for Good' here in the UK, that allows you to quickly find local charities that will collect your clutter for free. Posting the picture above alerted the local British Heart Foundation man + van, who arrived this morning to take about ten bags of clothes, books, kitchen items and other miscellaneous junk off my hands and into the hands of people who can hopefully do some good with it. It was a great feeling - not just the unavoidable, self-congratulatory warmth that comes with giving to charity - but the feeling of going back inside to a flat that no contains virtually nothing useless. No doubt there's more pairing down to be done (it becomes an obsession) but I feel like I crossed another bridge to wherever I'm going next.

No Buy April

It's been just over a year now since I began my journey, my "new life" (the inverted commas mean something). A good time to take stock, and reflect on what I have learned so far.  To sum up:

Imagining No Possessions (Part One)

A younger, more cynical version of me took issue with the song 'Imagine'.  Now: I am and always will be a Beatles devotee - they are still, despite everything, in my view very, very underrated - and maybe it's my enduring fascination with everything that happened in the Western world between 1962 and 1969 (not just viz. the Beatles, not even just viz. art) that left me unable to appreciate properly anything the Beatles did after the Beatles collapsed - but whatever the reason it's taken me this long to appreciate John Lennon's best known solo song for what it is.

Equinom?

The Equinox is here, and that feels like the right time to review the progress of my 'learning by doing' indoor gardening project.

On staring out the window

The feeling that you're supposed to be doing something can be a hard one to shake. I feel I'm luckier than others I know in this respect in that I'm rarely racked by a guilty feeling that I might be "wasting time". As Bertrand Russell, a champion of idleness who nevertheless managed to get plenty done in his long, long life, said, time to you enjoy wasting isn't really wasted at all. Russell lived to be 97, suggesting that if he practiced what he preached on the subject of "laziness" (his political activities and promiscuous sexuality gives us good reason to think so, viz. his many other writings on these subjects) his idleness may well have been a contributing factor to his longevity. Scientific evidence now appears to back this up. Work is bad for you. Overwork can literally kill you; and being dead is bad, at least my opinion. (Anecdotally, a director at the company where I still (sort of) work recently died of a heart attack at the distinctly un-Russelian age of 47. The rumour was he was on a treadmill (an actual treadmill) at the time, having realised only that day how stressed he was, and how little time he'd been setting aside for exercise, not to mention rest and relaxation. This was a man, I should also add, who was apparently healthy: trim, a non-smoker, a loving father and husband, happy and fulfilled. But stressed, and now he's dead. He will never be any of those things ever again. So it goes).

Landfill/Sofa

I aspire to a 'zero waste' lifestyle, but I'm not there yet.  One major obstacle is plastic, a subject on which my mind wandered onto this blog a few posts back.  Where I live in Bury, there's a great vegetable market, though very little of what it sells there seems to be locally produced (local readers please correct me if I'm wrong). When you take 'food miles' into account, as well as, you know, the actual cost, it still seems as if it's better to buy from my local Co-op, just across the road. I'll set aside for now the fact that every single time I shop there they ask me "do I have a Co-op Card?" (no) followed immediately by "are you interested in becoming a member?" (NO) for the sake of convenience (however advantageous corporate loyalty schemes may be, the idea just makes me feel ill) but I also have to balance this against the unsustainable obsession all supermarkets have with wrapping absolutely everything they sell in at least one layer of plastic. This annoys me greatly and I've been scrupulously dividing my waste according to Bury Council's recycling stipulations (Bury Council aspire to be a zero waste local authority themselves, which is great, though I don't know yet if that means what they think it means) but this obviously pales into semi-significance when weighed against the fact that recycling is a far from perfect substitute for just not producing waste to begin with.

Tuesday is also writing day

My book, which has the working title, 'The Vegan Imperative' is coming along slowly, oh so slowly, but surely, I think.  You may recall a few weeks back I decided that Monday would be my writing day.  No matter what, every Monday I spend some time working on my book.  It's not a difficult promise to keep, vaguely defined as it is (five minutes, after all, counts as "some time") but I'm pleased to say I've managed to do so through January and February.  I have about eight to ten thousand words down, and they're shaping themselves into some kind of order.

Everyday Things You Don't Really Need At All #1: Washing Up Liquid

I've always had a soft spot for those statistics you hear about how much of your life is occupied with the utterly mundane.  You spend one year of your life sitting on the toilet.  Six months in queues (not including the five months spent 'on hold').  Eleven years watching television.  Five years doing housework.  There's any number of listicles out there to scare and/or inspire you into spending more time doing things you love, always wished you had the time to do, or just doing the things that don't make you long for the sweet release of death.

"I have everything I need"

Say these words to yourself, right now: "I have everything I need".  I'm confident that if you're reading them (maybe on your smartphone?) it's probably true.  You have everything you need.

Deep Breaths and How to Take Them

I'm thinking a lot about breathing this week. What prompted this was my annual asthma review on Monday with a very enthusiastic practice nurse, far more enthusiastically anti-asthma than I've encountered in some years. I've suffered from asthma all my life, so these reviews have become routine, if not an irritation - yeah, I have asthma, it's a chronic condition, treatable but incurable, shit happens, take your inhalers and move on. As such when the nurse asked me if I thought my asthma was "well controlled", I said yes. According to the working medical definition, she told me, no it isn't.

Putting the worms to work

This morning I had the satisfaction of plunging my hands deep into my wormery for the first time to extract my first handfuls of worm compost.  The contents of my worm bin look like this:

Not pictured: actual worms.  Worms are shy.

Monday is writing day

Here's some good advice: if you want to accomplish something, you need to actually set aside time in which to do it. Blatantly obvious though this is, it's frustratingly hard to put into practice.

This is my take on the subject: don't give yourself a choice. Treat as something you just have to do. In this spirit, I have now set aside Monday as "writing day". Every Monday, no matter what, I will sit down on work on my book. No messing about, no distractions, just do it.

Yesterday was Monday. My first writing day. It went well. I spent probably 3-4 hours just writing and researching, and though I'm still on the ever-expanding introduction (or maybe it's chapter one, it's too soon to tell) I probably got a good three pages written. That feels like a good day to me.

I'm wondering if it might also help if I released the book a chapter at a time, perhaps to interested friends or regular readers of this blog (I know there's at least a few of you). That might stop me endlessly re-writing it, a trap I've fallen into in the past. It would also be a good way to get feedback from kind and intelligent people (oh how I flatter you) before unleashing the eventual monstrosity on the wider world. What do you think? Please comment below. It's about veganism, transhumanism, evolution and that sort of thing. Working title: 'The Vegan Imperative'. Working subtitle: 'Animals, humans and the future of life'. Grand.

A Week Without Facebook

It's easy to overthink Facebook.  If you're a user (and there's a 1 in 4 chance you are, there's over 1.7 billion of us) you've probably wondered more than once whether your relationship with Facebook is altogether healthy.  Are you using it too much?  How many of your "friends" are really friends?  How many times a day do you check it?  Why didn't s/he like my selfie?  Who cares?  Why am I always posting selfies?  Should I post this meme?  Is checking your phone the first thing you do when you wake up?  (Remember when we all first got phones?  We used to turn them off at night.  Imagine that).  Is there a difference between like and "like"?  Why does it feel sometimes that everyone I know on Facebook is living a more fulfilling life than me?  Who am I?  Am I real?  And so on, slippery sloping down into some void or other.  (Pick one, there's enough for all of us). 

Sexy Soil Testing, and Other Brief Motivational Musings

I thought I might make my first post of 2017 'new year' themed, but then I thought actually, no, I wouldn't.  No day is any more (or less) special than any other; and as everyone knows, new year's resolutions almost never last past January.  Why?  For just that reason.  You aren't any more motivated to improve yourself or the world on New Year's Day than you were on New Year's Eve.  It's just a date on a calender.  The world is still spinning.  2016 was awful - another thing everyone knows - but 2017 is no more likely to be wonderful because of that.  There is only now.