Thursday, April 12, 2018

Debrief

I wonder why I manage to attract regularly people somewhere on the NPD spectrum, I guess it might some family heritage mixed with being on the empathic side of the equation. My love life is sufficiently sparse not to be effected much lately, my latest job left quite some wounds which need some processing.

More than three years ago, being homeless and jobless, I took the opportunity to start working for Damo, who ran and still runs "We, the dogbro company", or dogbro for short. Don't google it, I changed names for a variety of reason you can guess about. dogbro sells a fermented drink, praised as some sort universal remedy for all sort of ailments, especially when you listen Damo's sales talk.

I knew Damo and Dara, his girl friend at the time, from a few encounters before, mostly linked to Damo's engagement with a small political party wanting to save the planet. A real power couple, both of them outgoing, confident and quite charming initially. After working in the financial industry ages ago, I didn't want to engage anymore in any company I consider part of the problem, and dogbro ticked all the boxes for working on the solution.

The niche product offered an alternative to soft drinks, might have health benefits, it definitely tasted and felt good when I sampled it, the brewery used solar technology, bottles were reused, labels printed with vegan ink. Damo appeared to walk his talk to compete on the market with a useful product made in as sustainable ways as possible. Yeah, it meant I was working for the man again, not as independent as I want to be, but as least not for the forces of evil.

The arrangement offered cash in hand convenience, and a bed in his distribution warehouse in my favourite neighbourhood. Initially I agreed to pay by two hours of daily work for the crash pad, managed to negotiate it down to one soon, before I managed to find a sharehouse close by. Before I started with dogbro, I "planned" to go wherever fate would blow me, so it felt right to me to engage there.

Dara didn't like the idea that I lived in the warehouse, she was concerned that it would turn into a hippie hangout instead of a place of business. It looked like one anyway, while it was spacious it was cluttered with lots of things, the majority of which were not related to the business. While I lived there, I tried to keep it tidy, which was basically a mission impossible. Damo's attention span is extremely short, so he doesn't care where he drops whatever he carries into the space, forgets to put lids back onto jars he opens, to close taps and so on.

In other words, no matter how clean and organised the different spaces in the warehouse were, it took Damo usually less than an hour to transform it back into dysfunctional, cluttered spaces. A lot of time at work was spend to find items which have gone lost in the chaos. When Dara broke up with him, things turned worse, because know we shared the warehouse most nights. Party was his preferred remedy, more important than my desire and need for a good nights sleep.

The business wasn't really thriving too much, so I had enough time to start tending the garden in the front yard. The slow pace of plants growing offered a relief from random context switching when Damo's monkey mind went ape shit, which happened lots after the breakup with Dara. I ate out lots, mainly because the kitchen was most of the time in a terrible state, and due to the amount of people coming through the space everything in the fridge was considered 'communal'.

I realised that I made enough money to afford my own space in a share house, creating a retreat from the ever changing chaos at work. Many unhealthy patterns of interaction between Damo and me were already established in these early stages, but I felt strong and equanimous enough to take it not personal. Being Alexander Technique teacher should imply that I can master my reactions to stimuli, right?

Yes and no. We all assume to a certain degree that the people around us are similar to us, which would predict much less conflict than we generally experience. At some point, I read up a bit on the Myers-Briggs personality test and estimated that Damo and I probably differ in all four dimensions. While I don't think this personality test offers more than an indication, and none of us is doomed to get stuck in any of the 16 outcomes, these differences provided often a too high stimulus for me to keep calm.

"Judging" causes me the greatest troubles, or rather, being judged. It often goes together with the blame game, in my point of view an utter waste of time. However, a judgemental person usually understands any observation as judgement, which creates a large obstacle to "Talking about it" as conflict resolution. Our culture has developed a cult of judgement, based on violent communication. Finding solutions, while essential for long-term relationships, offers much less entertainment than the drama of emotionally laden conflict.

The blame game drained me, and started to reactivate old, bad habits of defence. Depending on my mood, I either reacted with cynicism, or confrontational. Sometimes I just laughed about it, but most of the time it ended in full confrontation, both of shouting at each other. Usually, a bit of time out managed to forget about the "cause" of confrontation. The fact that technically I got fired each time we had a clash like this, left me feeling quite insecure. I didn't notice at the time how much Damo enjoyed this kind of emotional exchange.

I could have noticed earlier if I connected the dots. In the breakup phase with Dara, their interactions had a similar toxic dynamic. She told me at some point that she basically tried to educate him similar to a dog, with positive and negative reinforcement. That was reflected in the way they talked to each other. Obviously, she gave up at some point, despite a few bouts of break up sex. As last resort, she threatened him with an intervention order.

Damo's promiscuity and unwillingness to remain faithful proved the primary reason for the break up. Despite him admitting to have broken more than one promise to keep his dick out of other women, he presented himself as a victim towards other people he shared this "misfortune" with. At this time, I still considered him as friend, and suggested taking a bit more responsibility for this failed relationship. As a consequence, he avoided talking about her to me.

I simply accepted that he was in a bad mood due to this, which helped ignoring a bit when ever he lashed out verbally against me. The "blame Winston" pattern got established for as good as everything not right in the warehouse. While I had initially offered to provide my expert skills, I got tasked with menial jobs, including cleaning up after him. I didn't mind it too much, being paid meant I could pay the bills.

Things got worse when Willie, an old friend of Damo, appeared. He got introduced as "loose unit", and indeed, he had even more talent than Damo to create chaos around him, without being as charming or generous as Damo usually was when he met new faces. Willie commented as "permaculture expert" about the state of front yard, before chucking his cigarette butt into it. Like Beavis and Butthead, the two of them focussed exclusively on having a good time, unlike them they added lots of alcohol and drug use in the mix.

I got the impression that Damo wanted Willie around to look reasonable, and have another person for his blame game. The average tension level at work increased, just like the off times I was given. I just scraped by financially at the time, used smoking as expensive stress relief which increased the financial pressure. Damo seemed to be able to draw in an unlimited supply of unpaid helpers, attracted by the idea to work for a planet saving business, and random women he had sex with, and did lots of cleaning work in return.

All of that made my life more complicated. I enjoyed the people coming through, but less the fact that I had introduce new people to the same procedures on a regular basis. Also, lots of reorganisation of the spaces happened on "working bees" in my absence, usually meaning that I couldn't find what I needed for my job anymore. The social aspect, however, established the "I don't pay you for sitting around" pattern. I no longer got paid for the hours I spend there, but interactions with customers or new helpers were simply subtracted as unproductive leisure time.

Damo expected a 24/7 availability, and often rang me late at night to organise pick ups, or because he lost his keys and needed me to open the door for him. This impacted me a lot in having a social life, and getting sufficient rest to keep my mood and motivation up. Occasionally I got some booze or weed, which I basically couldn't afford, and drowned my grief, concerns and worry with these unhealthy means.

The business took a dive for some months, and with no silver lining in sight Willie left for a while. He went through several boom and bust cycles since I met him, always returning with the next splendid business idea he hasn't got the stamina to materialise properly. Just like Damo, he likes to get people to work for free for him, or for favours which usually work in favour for him. Unlike Damo, he's got little skills and no real income from his various ventures. He's got full support from Damo, though, who allows him to use his space, take his drugs and drink his booze.

While I'm not too certain, I presume it was Willie who spread the idea of me being a "negative" person. While I was the primary target for the blame game, I simply pointed out who was responsible for things I got blamed for. Any form of constructive criticism got labelled as "being negative". Instead of preventing things from systematically going wrong by changing the way they were approached, my "negative attitude" became the one and only problem in need of fixing.

This made it more and more difficult for me to see every day as a new opportunity to participate in what I initially perceived as a business involved doing something good. I managed to claim some of the routine tasks, which kept me sufficiently busy without becoming too involved in the drama which happened regularly. Days without seeing Damo allowed me to minimise emotional damage, but I felt the need to drink a lot, sometimes starting already around lunch.

I find it still difficult to remember some of those drama days without the emotional maelstrom that went with them. I want to be able to forgive myself for my inertness not to have moved on earlier, and those who treated me as emotional punching ball, without forgetting what happened. Suppressing my discomfort with alcohol and weed didn't work, it turned into a band aid preventing wounds from bleeding, but also from healing.

My opportunities to generate income are severely limited due to my own choices some years ago. I coast along on the tiny safety net I set up for myself, which also means that luxuries like alcohol, tobacco and weed are off limits. Sobering up for some weeks now makes me aware how toxic in many dimensions my way of life as part of dogbro had become. I wish the story would end here, but I have a hunch that the last chapter has been written yet.






Monday, March 12, 2018

What is a nation

In modern times, every human being is part of a nation. Well, nearly everyone, some nations have been eradicated, and have created 'stateless' people like Palestinians, Rohingya and many, many more. Although migration still happens a lot, most people 'belong' to a nation by virtue of birth.

Nations have been the attempt to unite a variety of tribes as a larger military unit. Unless you would call tribes nation as well. The indigenous people talk about more than 600 nations which existed on this continent before the First Fleet arrived. While I live on Wurundjeri land, it's said to be a part of the Kulin Nation, spanning across south-east Victoria.

Just like Europe has a variety of languages, Australia had lots of them. Language unites a nation or tribe, while at same time dividing them. Unless a tribe is really isolated, speaking more than one language seems the norm. If common language and culture signifies the existence of a 'nation', Australia truly hosted an abundance of them.

Today, 230 years after the First Fleet arrived in Botany Bay, only the nation "Australia" with an interesting variation of British English as uniting language exists on this large continent. Just like when fascist groups were on the rise in Germany in the late 1980s, and I wondered what "being German" means, I ask myself now what "being Australian" means.

According to the citizenship test, knowing cricket legends is essential. Which seems very arbitrary. Like the idea to teach "Australian values" in school. Unfortunately, that means it'll take about five to ten years before anyone being properly schooled in Australian values can represent them in the work force, management and politics.

Until then, the same greedy, corrupt, self-interested, narcissistic bunch of people "in power" continue to ruin this continent for everyone. Currently, the "Australian values" as being exemplified by the so-called leaders, look like this: Rort the system for your pleasure, ignore human rights, lie as needed, evade taxes by off-shore investments, blame someone else.

Usually, national values transfer by assimilation. Parents need to explain in some way why this is a holiday, and Santa doesn't bring presents. "Listen, kid, Lan Hancock got lucky in finding some good places to mine. He promoted genocide to protect his mines from respecting some of the oldest stone paintings on this planet. This made some of us filthy rich. The rest has the Herald Sun to know what to get angry about. Eat your lamb and watch us getting pissed."

Okay, I'm a bit cynical here. As a traveller, I met many humans from different origins. Our cultural inheritance comes as baggage we can't really get rid of. As long as we don't mistake it as integral part of our identity, there's no harm to it. We do get educated to defend it as fierce as our own characteristics though.

A nation represents a meme, with "nationhood" as memeplex. The enemy within, government, directs the attention to the enemy it claims to fight. The boundless plains of Australia, unlike Europe, know no internal borders. Hence anyone unwanted turned into an enemy. Until the 1960s, indigenous Australians were legally part of fauna.

So the "official" Australian values evolved from "We're not Abos!" to "We're not Wogs!" to "We're not Muslims" to "We're not Africans!". Honkey dory, who would have thought. Would someone, please, think about the Lamington?

Australia has the richest history on the entire planet. Oral tradition starts here. If people tell stories, then it began here. The law of the land is much more forgiving than the maritime law infecting this continent. But if you don't care for the land, don't expect the land to care for you. Money can't buy you love.

Unsurprisingly, the national narrative neglects the indigenous perspective. History starts with Cook "discovering" a continent with the longest continuous culture on this planet. The natives withered away, never bothered being disowned and killed. The colonial perks of raping, enslaving and killing indigenous people lives on in a strong culture of domestic violence. One nation, under the Queen, still lives the colonial dream, a nightmare for most of us.

The co-existence of many nations brought conflict with it. The options of conquest and genocide haven't been used. The different cultures still shared a common understanding. The modern concept of nation imposes an artificial common meme on its members. On the search for cultural identity, people accept national stereotypes as part of their identity.

The customs of the tribe describe its culture. For nations, it's the combination of food and booze preferences, combined with the favourite sport. The way we enjoy life plays an essential role in creating the national illusion. It's the carrot for the national herd, and "they" threaten to take it away from "all of us". It distracts from the stick, coming as fines, fees, permits, taxes and rules to make life difficult.

Nations scam its users just life insurance does. You're just meant to pay for the benefit of others.



Saturday, January 06, 2018

Empowering

After I joined the ".. .." team,
it felt like a surreal dream.
Working for the solution,
maintaining human evolution.

But in the general absence of care,
rampant denial of responsibility
despite apparent acts of stupidity,
it all turned into a silly nightmare.

Pointing out the hypocrisy
in the obvious discrepancy
between noble words and foolish action
turned out be an unwanted distraction.

So I can only put my trust into the land,
as another of my stories comes to an end.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Natural growth

I spend some time today pruning back pea vines, burying potato plants with homemade compost, and giving plants I want to have a bit more space to expand into. There's still some dirt under my fingernails, as I don't wear gloves, not sure how much I'm affected by leaves of a datura plant rubbing my sweaty skin.

Officially, autumn has begun here. Yet Melbourne has its own seasons, frost not happening and causing trouble. While the days are getting shorter, and nights cold enough for a good night's sleep, no rain means only the strongest plants survive without care.

Geraniums and Vietnamese Mint seem most thirsty, happy to give the tomatoes some special treatment. I slowly get a hang of the variety of ways plants grow, which parts we use, how to train them, how to prune them. I hardly ever used compost from our plastic compost bins, instead harvested the bottom layer of our green manure box for dark, worm crawling soil.

My houso build some trellis for our tomatoes in the back yard, the front yard ones got some height from one of my sculptures, and then used the neighbouring rosemary as support. The first time I harvested tomatoes from the back yard I had ample supply for weeks (low demand still), but the vigorous way of its growth demands good guidance for plenty of harvest.

The patterns of growth vary. The shrubs, pineapple sage, rosemary, yarrow, grow strong once established. I had dozens of parsleys plants, competing and going to seed prematurely. The mustard grew too dense and attracted fungus. The mint captured some edges, competing with the succulents. I cut them back in favour of the mint.

The succulents show an amazing resilience. The gifted pallet planter box/ bench combination didn't really work for any herbs, the succulents are thriving. Some of weedy ones even flower, and would provide a simple low maintenance green cover for neglected patches of soil. Anyone can propagate succulents, especially those tending to grow fast.

The creepy-crawler kind of plants pose a different problem. We have an amazing green cover for our front fence made of some peas. Plants using support by the environment instead of growing a strong support don't always treat their mates nicely. Ivy conquers slow and steady. Peas seem unstoppable in strangling whichever plant their tentacles reach.

'My' side of the fence looks a bit bare after I cut back the peas, yet the smaller brugmansia plant showed an abundance of pink flowers after being disentangled. Fighting back survivalists like grasses, vines and prickly plants like raspberry takes some effort, but without 'natural selection' by human hand evolution goes in different directions.

I feel inspired by the idea of permaculture. Using compatible diversity to create low-maintenance, high yield patches. Honestly, I feel like lightyears away. I still feel like I learned an awful lot within two years of tending a tiny patch, maybe about 4 square metres.

Leafy greens totally outpaced my knowledge how to keep them healthy, productive and not seeding prematurely. While I missed out on parsley, swiss chard and mustard, at least compared to my ambitious expectations, I learned a valuable lesson how less is more. Mustard and parsley produce a prolific amount of seeds, which I spread deliberately and generously. Overcrowding happened, plants went into seeding mood, others went as food for fungi.

Some parts of the patch seem to be thriving enough to stay for good. Comfrey and mint seem hard to get rid of, but might need some water to establish for good. Rosemary seems indestructible once established, even with little to none additional watering. Yarrow and peppino thrive on warmth and watering, although yarrow seems happily to wait a while to grow strong once it has good view to the sun.

I introduced the most persistent weed myself: a native raspberry. It's root system has captured a decent spot in the patch. I'm well aware that whenever I pull its obvious growth above the surface its roots live on. It would be tempting to train it along one of my sculptures, but it takes plenty of attention to keep it where it should be.

Potatoes blow my mind. Last year, the yield wasn't too good (maybe the best plant was harvested by neighbours). So I found out that burying the plant in soil should produce more tubers. I planted some gone off potatoes from the pantry, as deep as possible. Once the green parts grew out, I buried them in soil, mulch and/or compost.

They share the planter box with some hot chillies. So far, only four out of eight of them survived in there, at least two of them flowering. They are not really companion plants, so I have to wait and see whether I'll get some chilli and some potatoes. If I pile more soil on the potatoes, it will bury the chillies, one plant is already half submerged.

Some of the soil came from the green manure compost, started about two years ago. About 5 to 10 cm of rich, black compost, thriving with worms has collected at the very bottom of the box used for it. Every now and then I use a shovel to break down the dried plant matter a bit more to ease decomposition.

I didn't fertilise the patch much. Besides maybe 2 litres of worm juice, and the same amount of carp fertiliser, only the comfrey leaves contributed to keep the soil rich. Plus a few mouse corpses. And random things like tea, hibiscus flowers, coffee sludge and other foods. In other words, I have no idea why the plants continue thriving.

It's hard to tell how much work this patch needs to stay healthy and somehow productive. Pruning tomatoes kept me busy in the last weeks, and during the long hot summer watering was essential. It feels mostly relaxing, and the details I encounter reward me lots. The variety of shades of green, the elegant scarlet pineapple sage flowers and the passion flower vine trained around the wooden arch provide me with simple entertainment and peace of mind in times of stress.


Monday, December 12, 2016

Solar food dryer

Gardening has become my new hobby since I found a nice place to reside in. My housemate loves gardening, too, and organises our backyard a bit more systematically than I do with my own patch in front of a warehouse.

Last year we had more tomatoes than we could eat, and the herbs from the front yard might be harvested much more if I had a decent option to dry them. When I saw clips for building solar dryer, I got hooked on the idea, as it utilises some clever principles, and needs to energy input.

A solar dryer consists of a well insulated heating element, a drying compartment and a chimney as air outlet. The heating element consists of stacks of connected cans, painted black and fitted into a small box with a glass or perspex pane. The suns heats the cans, which hopefully start air convection inside, the heated air rises, holes in the bottom allow cold air to be sucked in. The heating element connects to the top of the drying compartment.

If there's material to dry, the warm air sucks the moisture out of it, gets heavier and sinks to the bottom. The outlet on the bottom connects to a chimney on the back, where the temperature differential should allow it to rise again, permitting constant airflow through the drying section.

I found some window panes today, potentially the most expensive part when bought instead of reused. In a household which loves a drink or to, empty cans will naturally accumulate, which means all I need to find/source is some timber and some MDF maybe.

My first draft for the can stack is pretty simple, I removed the bottoms of the cans, made little winglets with a tin snip on the top, used duct tape to keep it together and spray painted the lot in black. I can fit 6, maybe even 7 of those stacks behind the pane, and luckily the height fits 6 can on top of each other nicely.

At the moment, the first stack bakes in the noon sun. I want to test whether duct tape suffices a tight, durable seal. Besides heat, there will be no physical stresses once the heating element is put together.
However, if the tape comes loose after a while, it would mean disassembling a box potentially tightly sealed with silicone to fix it.

While the first stack is constructed a bit sloppy, the air gains about 10-12ª celsius while passing through it. No idea whether this will increase or decrease when I have 6 or 7 of them in parallel, or how much this depends on the outside temperature.

I'm a bit torn whether I want to have a go at the downward draft design, which might need the chimney part going quite far up to pull the moist air out. Which means I have to continue building this thing to figure out whether adding moisture to air will facilitate the airflow. Doh.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Monday, September 12, 2016

Happy days

A new week started. I forgot/forgave the confrontations of last week, cured the hangover from a nice party and the frustration about being snubbed by the last tram by lazing out. Inspired by listening about Whole Body Intelligence I promised myself to manifest an abundant week.

Keizo the cat woke me up around 6am. He hasn't spend many nights in my room, so I let him in and went back to sleep. Unlike many other days, I felt energised and happy to get up and find out what surprises the day holds. I focussed my intention on compassion, honesty and openness.

Despite the lousy weather, I went on a walk to check out a bizarre piece of street art for myself. (In case you wonder, it's a dildo and bottle of tomato sauce hanging over a power line in the manner of a pair of shoes).

On my way back home, I found out that some paid work is waiting for me. Despite the slow business, the working week starts usually at least half a day later than in most places trying to make money. If my boss wouldn't complain so much about financial problems, I wouldn't mind a slow start. I just don't think that neglecting business works to increase sales.

The kitchen had deteriorated into a mess, and despite not really liking cleaning it, my surprising happiness helped to offer doing it. After all, I probably would get paid, and it makes the work space more inviting. After an event this weekend, main priority was to get the prepping area back into a state which allows us to sell our goods.

I must have done this dozens of times, creating order out of chaos, transforming an obstacle course into open work spaces where it's easy and safe to move around. It wouldn't be rocket science to keep the place in working order, but after events it looks often like a bomb exploded and spread everything randomly around.

It took a while to get it back into shape, but I also noticed my boss being in one of his angry moods. 90s rock music often acts as reliable indicator for potential conflict. Dismayed by the unnecessary chaos, which subverts our idea of sustainability and being part of the solution, my balance on a high declined slowly.

Many clashes happened between me and my mate acting as boss, so I can easily analyse some of the skewed perceptions which allow for easy escalation. Like a well set mouse trap, he is triggered easily. One main trigger is miscommunication, mainly my inability to read his thoughts. Anger goes together with impatience, creating quite a vicious circle. If I don't react straight away, anger escalation happens. 

As an empath, I try to avoid hanging around people emanating anger or hate. In a state of openness, my chemistry synchronises with the people around me. This makes hanging out with supportive, loving and caring people extremely pleasurable. It's much less fun when people lose their shit and direct it towards me.

I carried lots of anger with me, until I started working more on myself and noticed many undesirable pattern in me. My body remembers enough angry confrontations to provide me with some default reactions. I learned to walk away from confrontation, but I can run with my rage as well. Whenever I do, I notice quite acute how toxic anger is. Depending on the intensity of conflict, it can easily take some hours or up to a good night's sleep to breath this detrimental cocktail out of my system.

So when I couldn't keep up with a change of my bosses mind, which happened in less than 15 minutes and wasn't communicated, I got shouted at and returned it in the same coin. I still feel the chemicals going together with anger reverberating in me. Being aware that empathy primed me to reactivate old, bad habits could have prevented escalation. 

What started as an unusual nice day turned into another day wasted in useless fights with my boss. At the moment, I can't just walk away from the job, unless I find a way to successfully promote my own business. I'm just more determined to listen more to my body not to lose my grounding the next time with a similar constellation. 

While my intention to convert the game of life into a fun game didn't manifest today, I will continue this process for at a week, before I file it as 'learning experience'.