“While modern capitalism constantly develops new needs in order to increase consumption, people’s dissatisfaction remains the same as ever. Their lives no longer have any meaning beyond a rush to consume, and this consumption is used to justify the increasingly radical frustration of any creative activity or genuine human initiative — to the point that people no longer even see this lack of meaning as important.” - Pierre Canjuers, Socialisme ou Barbarie #27

Friday, 28 April 2017

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.

Leeks come from the onion family (along with garlic, chives and - believe it or not - onions) which means they grow roots enthusiastically, even recklessly, wherever they can.  And what this all means for the frugally inclined is that they're a perfect candidate for re-growing.  In my experiments so far, they're the vegetable I've had the most success with turning back into edible indoor plants from the ends that would otherwise normally go to waste.  Here's how to do it.

1.  Slice off the root end at the point where it turns from green to white (about 3-4 inches from the bottom).

2.  Leave in a jar or bowl of water, half submerged in a spot that's getting some direct sunlight.  I've had best results just leaving them on a kitchen worktop, rather than on a windowsill, where they tend to go a bit too soggy.

3.  Change the water a couple of times a week.  Some websites recommend changing the water daily, but I haven't found this necessary.

4.  The leeks will start to 'sprout' from the middle, growing back to their original green colour almost immediately.  You might be surprised by how fast they grow, even in the winter.


5.  After about 2 or 3 weeks, you will start to notice roots growing back.  When you have a healthy-looking amount of root growth, plant the leek ends back into soil.  I've packed them fairly close together in containers and they're thriving.  Very little space seems to be required between leeks, another reason why they're ideal for indoor or container gardening.


6.  Cover to the point when you first sliced the vegetable, so that only new growth is above the surface.

7.  Whenever you want, slice off new growth, leaving the end rooted in the soil, and allow to re-grow.

8.  Report back to me with your findings.

The planted leeks pictured above have already started to grow back after I used them in my green stir fry breakfast just the other day.  I see no reason why they can't just keep on regrowing indefinitely.  Except possibly entropy, or something.

Don't forget to like, share, +1, click on things, comment, raise awareness, etc etc.  Thanks.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

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.

Take a look at your toilet.  Fresh water is pumped straight into it, which you then piss and shit in, and flush away.  This accounts for 31% of overall household water consumption, apparently.  This is normal.  That is the kind of world we live in.

What if our sinks were plumbed in to our bathrooms, so that water drained away from washing dishes, showering, etc, were stored in the cistern (or probably also a 'backup' tank) and then used to flush?  Clearly this would save water, which benefits everyone.  Are houses designed that way?  I'm no architect, but I see no reason why they shouldn't be.  So anyway, I've come up with my own contribution to the situation, that requires no plumbing or architecture or design skills at all.  I hand wash my clothes, and use the left over water to flush my toilet.  Radical.

You beauty.
Of course this means transporting the water from the kitchen sink to the toilet manually, and for this I use a jerry can (pictured).  Full, it has the capacity of approximately one flush.  So each time I flush, I just empty the jerry can into the cistern, and it refills from there.  Incredibly simple, and since I'm on a water meter in this flat, it's going to reduce my water bill too.

Some comments on hand washing clothes: this is a little labour intensive, but very satisfying.  I find that in a kitchen sink's worth of water and a handful of washing powder, I can get 3 or 4 shirts and/2 pairs of trousers/5 or 6 pairs of underwear and shirts clean, given the requisite elbow grease.  This means washing clothes every 3 days or so, rather than in bulk as I was previously at the laundrette.  It might be worth calculating if this is actually using less water overall, but when you factor in the fact that all water I'm using is being used twice, I'm not exactly sure how to do that.


Wednesday, 26 April 2017

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.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

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...

Monday, 24 April 2017

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.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

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

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

First Pea Pod!

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

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

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.

Monday, 10 April 2017

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.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

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.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

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:

Sunday, 26 March 2017

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.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Equinom?

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

Saturday, 18 March 2017

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).

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

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.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

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.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

"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.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

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.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

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.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

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.

Friday, 6 January 2017

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). 

Monday, 2 January 2017

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.