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Irish thatched cottage

In the late '60s -early-'70s I spent 5 years building geodesic domes, and published Domebook 2. By the time it sold 170,000 copies, I'd concluded that domes didn't work. That's a pretty big audience, I figured I should show all those reader other ways of building. I took off with two Nikons and a backpack and shot photos in Ireland, the UK, Canada, and the US. After struggling for so long with plastics and other new building materials, I was thrilled to discover the world of natural materials. Here, on the west coast of Ireland, is a thatched stone cottage. Stones were cleared from the field and used for the fences, and walls of the house and outbuildings. Grain was grown in the fields, and the stalks used to thatch the roof. Everything looked right (the haystacks were shaped like the house). The book Shelter (1973) resulted from that trip.
Since I'm now working on a book on tiny houses, I took a bunch of quick and dirty pictures (with my pocket camera) of photos in Shelter, where we were advocating tiny houses 37 years ago, and will post a few. Sorry for the poor quality of pics, but you'll get the idea.

Free To A Good Home – Historic Tourist Cabins in Richmond, Vermont

"…these little cabins need a new home and are free to anyone that can take them away. There are four identical cabins, each measuring about 12′ by 12′. The only catch is that they must be removed by July 31, 2010… Each cabin measures approximately 12′ x 12′ with a small bathroom and kitchen area. Exterior features include novelty siding, exposed rafter tails, original windows and door, and Craftsman-style entry hoods. These are great examples of roadside architecture and could be rehabilitated into wonderful little guest cottages, playhouses or retreats."
From Michael Jantzen's Tiny House Design: http://www.tinyhousedesign.com/

Communication - Economics of publishing

Communication 2010

The heart of my work will always be the physical book, but I'm loving the blogging (and tweeting) process. Starting with a high school journalism class, I've been trying to communicate what I see going on out in the world. I'm some kind of combination naif, Pollyanna, and communicator, and can't wait to tell people what's out there. I don't need to tell you this is a golden age for communicators. As soon as I post this on my blog, it's out worldwide — it's staggering — especially for someone who started out in the world of hot lead type.

I've got revolutionary avenues and tools of communication available now: The WEB — hoo! And tools: big Mac Pro desktop honker in office, scanner, great Epson pro 4800 printer, plus Road Gear: MacBook Pro laptop, 3G iPad, iPhone, 4 different cameras, not to mention GPS in truck and satellite radio. An "…embarrassment of riches." I better do something with all this!

Economics of publishing: 40 years of tightrope walking

For 4 decades it's been nip and tuck. We sure ain't in it for the money. In years past we had to borrow to pay printing bills. When Random House was our distributor, they handled reprints of our most popular books. They'd pay the printers and eventually deduct it from our quarterly check — 6 months after the bill was due. It was a great deal. When things got tight, they'd give us an advance on sales. When Random House got conglomerate-ized, we switched distribution to Publishers Group West, and it was a match made in heaven. As years went by, we got slightly ahead of printing bills. We even had a nest egg of about $130,000 3 years ago and bingo, bankruptcy by parent company Advanced Marketing Services wiped that out. Now we're rolling with PGW again, but still tightrope walking. We need to sell enough books in the next 6 months to stay afloat, until we get the tiny houses book out there, which I suspect is going to be successful. Keeps us on our toes.

Foreign Editions

We've sold rights to the new edition of Stretching in Spain, Brazil, Korea, China (complex and simple Chinese), Viet Nam and have offers from Germany and interest from Japan. (Stretching is our flagship, the only reason we're still afloat.; the new edition has sold 18,000 copies in the US and Canada in 5 months.)

SolFest back on

The event got so big it couldn't be accommodated in Hopland, so it's moved to the Ukiah fairgrounds, September 25-26 this year. My favorite fair. We have a booth and always sell tons of books. Info: http://www.solarliving.org/display.asp?catid=62&pageid=217

Music and Gymnastic

Plato advocated balance. Right brain/left brain in education. Music (which included writing, story-telling and poetry) to be balanced by the Gymnastic (physical exercise). Mental balanced by physical. Still true, even more important these days. Never have us earthlings been more sedentary. Until very recently we had to perform physical labor to survive. Hunting, gathering, farming, dealing physically with the physical world. Now we're pretty immobile in front of these monitors.

Over and over again I get away from running or paddling, and feel increasingly terrible. Chi dragging ass. I didn't do much for a few weeks after hurting my knee in the Dipsea Race. Discouraged. Lot of office work to do. Finally forced myself to take a paddle in the lagoon, that night felt alive again, circulation going, mojo working. Such a difference. It's hard these days to remember the body, there's so much fascinating stuff going on digital-wise, but Plato was right, there's gotta be a balance. Regarding dragging yourself out there, Stretching guru Bob Anderson says, "You never hear anyone say, 'Jeez, I'm sorry I worked out.'"

Traveler's Stretches: click here to download (free) a 1-page set of stretches to do when traveling. Print out and take on trip. Stretch on airplane, in hotel room.

Do-it-yourself moving van, vertical technique

No indication of where this is. From looks of headgear guys are wearing, might be in mid-east…


Hearth and home and reincarnation

There's the physical part of it, the walls and roof. There are scores of construction methods in all our building books. But equally important, not so easy to define, is the feeling you get in a home. The way it feels inside. I stepped into an old English cottage in the Berkshires on a cold night 30 years ago. There was a low ceiling, fire burning in the corner, and it felt so good it was a jolt. Like a connection to a past life. I've often thought reincarnation is genetic. I have Welsh ancestors, and they would have lived in such cottages. Couldn't that familiar feeling of hearth and home be in the blood?
In the 60s I was sitting at a table in the house I was building in Big Sur. There was no electricity, and I was sharpening a chisel by the light of a kerosene lantern, and wham! I knew I'd done this before. Such a strong feeling it occurred to me that one of my dad's ancestors had sharpened a chisel by candlelight, and here I was recognizing a bit of coding in my cells.

French 35'-high robot elephant of recycled materials

Dubbed the “Great Elephant,” this 12-meters high and 8-meters wide mechanical elephant uses 45 tons of reclaimed wood and steel for its construction. This robo elephant is capable of taking up to 49 passengers on a 45-minute joy ride.
Ooh, those French!

House moving in Malaysia

Looks like about 40 men here…


Music in my life

Is a huge part of my life. 2 of my 3 sons are musicians*. I took violin lessons for 7 years, gave it up in high school because it didn't seem cool. Didn't play it for 50 years. A few years ago I was in a music store and asked to see a violin that was hanging up. To my surprise I could play like I'd never quit.Bought it for $200.  Lesley had no idea I could play. I took it home and she was baking a pie. I snuck the violin out and played "Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy." Surprise and merriment.
*Will plays in the Brazilian band Sambada, from Santa Cruz: http://www.sambada.com/

Sirius Satellite Radio

I kid you not, Sirius has changed my life. The quality of music is just off the charts. My pre-selected stations are BB King's Blusville; Outlaw Country (rockin' country); The Joint (reggae); Bluegrass; the '50s; a classical station Bach etc.); Raw Dog Comedy; I switch around a lot. Tuesday on the road: The Right Time by Otis Rush; Bumblebee by Memphis Minnie; Gregory Isaacs... reggae somehow goes with Mendocino county; I Have a Boyfriend by the Chiffons, made me think of all those great girl groups of the 50s with their intricate harmonies and witty backups. Doo ron-ron...As I write this I'm sitting in my round room at Louie's listening to the Abyssinians singing Satta Mass Gana, "There is a life far, far away..."

Bass Madness: My new box bass is so great that I've been playing it a LOT. It's wonderful to discover the world of bass playing. I never really heard the bass before. It's like a different world, steady, the underlying current. Most people tune into only the melody.

My first musical love was the Mills Brothers, in the late 40s and 50s. The harmonies, the trumpets and trombone and bass done with the human voice. The much later, age 18, I walked into Sherm Welpton's room at the Fiji house at Stanford and heard "Yes it's me and I'm in love again" by Fats Domino (pic left). Ooo-wee! That led into the world of what was called rhythm and blues.. We started listening to KDIA, Lucky 13, in San Francisco, the black music station. We (ages 18-20) started going to R&B concerts in Santa Cruz and LA, with groups like the Clovers, Medallions, Robins, Drifters, Coasters...fantastic singing and dancing in unison...Earl Bostic on saxophone. Lieber and Stoller songs, what a couple of geniuses. Which all led me into blues and rock and roll.

This Tuesday, the Kahn family is backing up 91-year-old ragtime piano player Phoebe Babo at the Aegis Rest Home in Corte Madera. Brother Bob on banjo, son Will on drums, me on box bass. A sort of celebration of my mom's life, for the residents. We're going to film it. Here's Phoebe a few weeks ago doing Bye Bye Blues: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIM3WVFROYs