Renew, Reuse, Recycle

Over a year ago I started a hobby that has taken a few twist and turns. While thinking about global warming and where our world is heading I quickly realized that there aren’t many things made these days that will be around a decade from now. However, there are many tools and items that were made a hundred years ago that not only still exist but still work.

This adventure started with an interest in typewriters. I had bought my first typewriter, a Smith-Corona super speed that had a few parts missing and needed a little love. The adventure took over a year, it was finally fixed a few months back, but after ordering a few parts online it was working perfectly. During that tim,e I came across dozens of typewriters that had different things wrong with them and I was able to fix them all. It was during that time I realized I was saving these machines from the recycling and trash dumps to continue being used. I became a middleman between a death that would come too soon and a new life with a good home.

While a part of me wonders why people won’t take the time to figure out what is wrong with these machines it also keeps me busy looking for more that people are trying to flip or make a profit from. The oddest part of this trade is finding rusted out machines with broken carriages and platens missing from the rubber rotting off are the machines that have the highest price. People will look online and see what some machines are selling for and thing their piece of junk will sell for that, not seeing what it really is. These machines I would find useful for the parts they contained. For the price they are being sold for they will sit on the shelf and eventually move on to a darker place.

A few months back I found three AM radios at a sale where everything was half off. I picked up the radios to see if I could figure out how to fix them. I knew little about vacuum tube radios or electronics in general, but I replaced the power cords and cleaned out the bodies. Plugging in the first radio and turning it on I waited a few seconds to see the lights turn on and the static from the speaker start to fill the room. An old zenith radio had found a second chance.

When it comes to the eco conscious individual I see a few things that make sense but there are many aspects of their personality I can’t get past. They will buy new cars that cost several barrels of oil to create from the beginning of production to the point of reaching the parking lot. They by cell phones from china, eat food from supermarkets, even if it is organic it was still harvested, wrapped, and shipped from oil. At the end of the week they feel good about putting their recycling out and making money for somebody else who sells the raw material produced.

Growing up I learned three words to help the world. Reduce, reuse, and recycle was printed on a triangle pinned to the board on the side of the classroom. So far recycle is the only one that has gone anywhere in the last 20 years. Reduce is not popular with the Walmart crowd, but let’s look at reuse. I’m the type of person that likes to go to garage sales, antique shops, estate sales, and flea markets. What I try to find is items that are at their last leg in life and have a second chance waiting for them. Many of these machines are better for the environment and had their carbon bill created almost a century ago. A typewriter is Microsoft word on a machine that prints what you write while you write it, no electricity needed. The AM radios offer entertainment that have a classic sound and still play modern music if you tune in to the right channel.

My latest project is a 1922 Minnesota domestic model A sewing machine. This machine is a clone of the Singer sewing machines of the time and came with a solid oak cabinet that contains the foot pedal and belt that powers the sewing machine. Again, a fully functional machine that doesn’t use electricity. Not only is it useful but the quality of materials and the beauty they were made with isn’t matched by anything today. With a little oil, cleaning products and love the machine came back to life for another hundred years. The oak cabinet is still solid and just needs a little sanding and finish to come back to life.

While people stick to their recycling and think they are making a difference I have started to look at the other two words in that phrase. Reuse isn’t just taking stuff out of the closet and using it once in a while, for me it means bringing things back to life that people will want to use again for a second or maybe third lifetime. As for the reduce aspect of the triangle I can say that selling these items takes care of the stockpile that builds up while fixing these machines. Their sale isn’t for much profit since I try to sell them for a price that the average person can afford and are more likely to appreciate. For the type writers I don’t see many collectors trying to find typewriters, what I have been seeing is people who want one to use for letters or writing that novel they always wanted to do.

Reusing items isn’t just that one word. You are recycling the material they are made out of, reducing the need for more items to be created, and renewing a machine that somebody will love for the first time. While I have expanded into world of sewing machines it won’t stop there. I have seen quite a few tobacco pipes that are looking for a second chance and what I have learned is that with a little buffing, cleaning and a shot of whiskey they are like new for a new owner to enjoy. Who knows maybe renewing old products that were created so long ago will become a new industry.

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Creating the Man of Tomorrow

The future doesn’t consist of a world where one can become anything they want just by pursuing it through hard work and really wanting it, although that was a myth. Instead we have a future where we have a very good idea of what is going to happen, the only catch is that we don’t know how soon it will happen. Currently the predictions of climate change are speeding up and what climate scientist originally thought was going to take decades to happen is now occurring at this present moment. The year (2017) has seen the second year that the arctic hasn’t frozen over and the current temperature (Feb 9, 2017) is fifty degrees higher than normal. Oklahoma reached 100 degrees today as well. The arctic hasn’t been free of ice since human kind started civilization 40,000 years ago.

I bring this up for several reasons. Our current administration denies that climate change exist. A witch hunt is underway for scientist and government employees who study the weather and its effects. As if silencing the scientific consensus will somehow change the fact that the human race as a whole is under the threat of extinction. The rate at which our climate is changing is happening faster than anybody anticipated. The release of methane from the arctic is expected to speed things up even faster. Methane is a more toxic greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and there are large amounts of it trapped under the frozen surface of the Siberian tundra and the waters of the arctic. When that methane is released temperatures will rise regardless of the carbon dioxide levels measured by our governments.

The earth is changing, and if mankind is going to survive he has to adapt to it or risk going extinct like so many species that came before. So, what do we do?

As I write this my girlfriend is 9 weeks along with our first child. If things go as planned it will be our only child. At 37 years of age there isn’t much room for anymore and I don’t want to run the risk of being mistaken as grandpa when they are in their 20s. Boy or girl there is a long list of things I will be teaching them along the way. Much of it should come as a normal part of life. A healthy curiosity for learning is key. Self confidence in themselves will hopefully be instilled. But beyond that there are simple skills that most people don’t have anymore. Fishing, hunting, gardening, respect for the earth and everything it provides. Enjoying your life. The part of the collapse I look forward to is the disappearance of the banks and the 40 hour a week bullshit of a thing called a job. Seriously, homesteading would be a permanent vacation for me. There are more skills that will be taught and with the way things are nose diving into the ocean I don’t know if there is enough time to get everything in. The reality of being a parent is knowing you won’t be around forever to take care of them. The natural way of things is that eventually the child replaces the parent.

It’s no secret I don’t like how things are going right now. Between climate change, the banks, a fascist president, internet surveillance, and war on the horizon how is one supposed to have confidence in anything other than their own ability? When the people you are supposed to trust let you down repeatedly at what point do you walk away from the mess and go about it on your own?

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Finding the Symbolism in John Wick

If you were fortunate enough to see John Wick Chapter 2 this weekend there might have been a few things that stood out to you if you are an action movie fan. One of the side effects of seeing this movie is finding yourself pulling out old exercise equipment and practicing a few moves you might have learned from a martial arts class you took decades ago. There is good reason for this and it is the mythology the movie used to play to the ideology of men.

After the initial scene where John finally gets his car back, nothing like trying to tie up a few loose ends from the first movie, we find John still mourning the loss of his wife. While he is retired from the business he is brought back due to a favor he owes a man that he doesn’t want to owe. The task is one that John doesn’t want to take and in the end the job is done for him. After completing the mission a contract is put out for John and he is on the run while trying to kill the man that pulled him back in. It is during this portion of the movie we start to see the mythology of the character start to come out, or as they like to call it these days, the Easter eggs.

The first job takes place in the roman colosseum, with some of the scenes taken directly from the Bruce Lee movie The Way of the Dragon (or Return of the Dragon for those not familiar with the original titles) where Bruce fights Chuck Norris, an equal opponent in martial arts. There is more to it in John Wick, who has to fight a small army while trying to escape, using a mix of Judo and gun fighting skills to reach safety. It is at this point John is a black belt in his field. He is the man that knows all the tricks and has become one of the best in his field, but like any black belt that doesn’t mean his journey is over. Like the road of the artist they must learn everything for their art before they can get really creative. Keep in mind John is an artist.

Then there was the subway scene, taking us back to the Matrix movies and reminding us where we have seen this version of Keanu reeves before. It was times like this where I wondered if John Wick was just a continuation of the Matrix movies, Neo plugged into a world where Trinity is still dead and he tries to forget the life he lived before. To feed into this theory Laurence Fishburne appears as the leader of an underground clan whose headquarters is located underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. We have seen this before in the movie Johnny Mnemonic, another Keanu Reeves action film from the 1990s. At this point, John Wick is forced to prove his abilities by trying to kill his target with only seven bullets in his gun, a play on numerology and the importance of the number seven. Of course, the bullets don’t last and he is forced to steal the weapons of the men he kills much like Bruce Lee had to change styles in his movie The Game of Death. Unlike The Game of Death, the fight scene ends in a mirrored room, changing films to Enter the Dragon, another Bruce Lee film. The final stage of John Wick’s transformation is having to fight himself, not being distracted by himself and his own image and killing his ego in order to reach his goal. The famous scene where Bruce Lee starts to smash the mirrors wasn’t because it was the only way to find his enemy but to kill the one thing holding him back in life and his enlightenment.

The woman he fights, a deaf assassin, was a nice homage to the Thai film Bangkok Dangerous, about a young man that over comes his disabilities and learns to become a proficient killer. Wick continues on and ends the confrontation by doing that which every martial artist must do in order to find themselves, he breaks the rules. He follows his own path and kills the man in the continental hotel. We learn about the untouchable safe zones in the first movie when Ms. Perkins tries to break the rules and is later killed when her membership to the continental is revoked. John does this knowing the repercussions and accepts his fate becoming the man on the run with a price on his head, or Caine from Kung Fu. The only question is, with his skills, do the rules still apply to him. How can he be deemed in violation of the rules if he is beyond the judgement of those that created him? This is the true start of John Wick, the ability to start over in uncharted territory where what he knew has been destroyed and he is free to write his own rule book as he moves along.

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The Times They Are A Changin’

For the second day in a row I was outside cleaning my yard. Racking leaves, cleaning out the garden, this was February 14 and it was almost 50 degrees in Michigan. This kind of thing has been a re-occurring trend in my state. Granted, the state is known for having all four seasons in a week, or sometimes a single day depending on its mood. For most of my adult life I cannot recall the last time we had a real winter, the type of season where kids could build snow forts and have snow ball fights while hiding behind snowmen. The last time we had an accumulation of snow and it stuck around all winter was 1999/ 2000. That was 17 years ago, in the early 2000s we had a snowless Christmas with 70-degree weather and I was outside wearing a t-shirt and shorts.

Again this year, the weather bureau stated this was the hottest summer on record and the warmest winter ever recorded. Last week the arctic was 50 degrees warmer than normal and was the highest temperature ever while humans have been on the planet. The arctic, for another year, never froze over.

I know that things change, the childhood that I had was not the world my parents had, and the world I grew up in was my version of normal. Every generation goes through that transition. When I was growing up war was a televised spectator sport, celebrities had live trials, and the president’s sex life was broadcast on television. That wasn’t my parent’s world. The one that we are moving into isn’t the world I grew up in either. Normal for my kid could look like snowless winters in Michigan. Animals I saw alive at zoos will no longer exist. If some people have their way, the National Parks might not be around either for them to enjoy. A think called privacy will become an odd habit for prudes. The world I grew up in, the one that currently exist will be gone and what comes next will be the new normal, the only one my child will ever know. The fast-changing world is a challenge for parents, seeing their kids with things they themselves do not understand and are too busy working several jobs to have the time to keep up with the times. It’s no wonder there is a disconnect between the generations.

The times they are a changin, and what the world will look like I can only guess. Winter has become a short one month event with bits of fall and spring dotting the calendar here and there. The bits of warm weather at the beginning of the year has caused havoc with the fruit trees, causing blooms too early for bees to pollinate and catching the flowers in early season frost to dry off, killing the chances of growing fruit. Hunting season has been thrown off as well with the rut taking place earlier in the fall so that it is done before gun season opens. The earth is changing and the rest of the planet is trying to catch up in its own way, but nobody knows how to do that. In a world that we depend on to remain normal I find myself questioning what exactly is normal?

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A Vision of the Future

When I imagine what the world will look like, specifically my area of Michigan, I see a drastic change from the world we have today. Some of the things we no longer have include supermarkets, a large number of cars, and less people. There will be some resemblance of our current normality. Local governments will have more power compared to state of federal. Roads will still be around. Electricity will be available to those that can figure out a power source. Libraries will be the main source of knowledge and entertainment.

Economically, the main stores will include reuse merchandise. Items that can stand the test of time and be fixed by a steady hand. This won’t be the electronics that we have today. Cell phones won’t be around. Home phones will return as the norm, for a while. The post office will send correspondence if it is still around after a republican administration. With a return of a reliance on the post office will come a return of earlier technology like the typewriter. Some people as about ribbon and how to get more? The bright side is that ribbon is a fairly easy product to make, also if the ribbon is still in good condition it can be reinked and used several times over. I can’t think of any modern technology that has that ability.

We will see a line in human history marking when humans stopped building tools that were reliable and sturdy. The quality of tools will mean more than how pretty they are.

Slate records and the hand crank Victrola will be items of luxury. The mechanically inclined will be the most valuable people to the general public. They will be the gateway to an easier life and a reminder of the world we once had. Communities will have to return for the sake of the population at large. Neighborhoods will no longer be boxes to hold your stuff, instead everyone will rely on sharing of goods and supplies to get by. Festivals will no longer be a place to sell and buy goods, instead a place to share and enjoy one another’s company.

Acoustic music will be the norm and making those instruments will become a new craft, revived from the local need. Old hand crank or foot pedal sewing machines will be a sign of luxury again. I don’t know if money will survive. People might think it was a nice idea and some will hold onto it thinking it is special while it is not edible and doesn’t serve any purpose besides existing. Festivals and local customs will be dictated by the seasons. Blueberries and other crops will become a focus point and become more than just a garnish in a salad. The first two R’s in reduce, reuse, recycle, will finally be used. While these items are saved and restored for future generations, life will be easier than if they had disappeared along with the rest of civilization. Mechanics will be the wizards of the future, speaking words like Metric and Inches as if it was a foreign language only they can understand. Life will become more simple while becoming more dangerous with people dying from diseases we consider a hindrance these days. In the end, everywhere will become a small town. Jobs will no longer be the concern on people’s minds. With the fall of banks and corporations the only job people will have is to survive. In order to survive people must work together, and hopefully remember the mistakes of the past and not repeat it in the distant future.

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A Message to a Young Writer

As I stand at work and type this I wonder what advise someone could have given to me at a young age to make sure I didn’t end up where I am today, and by that I’m not referring to being a writer or working some second shift job for $12 and hour. Instead I am referring to being a mediocre writer with little experience in a field I still have a lot of ignorance about. I am still learning as one should always do. The mistakes I made is not using the time I had to the best of my ability. This is why I write this to you, young writer.

Do not question your passion and don’t let others do that for you. If this is what you are drawn to or have a craving for, feed that beast. Eat everything. Read anything you can get your hands on. Make friends with like-minded souls who share your interest. Practice. Every word you write, every page you throw in the trash or delete is another step to writing that final work. Learn your craft. A master is someone that never stopped practicing their art.

Work every job that comes your way and treat it like a new experience for the first time. The conversations you have, the relationships you build are all tools added to your arsenal. There is no job too bad, boring, petty, dangerous, or loathing that you can’t walk away from without learning something. The writer shares with the world how they view it. There is no substitute.

Read the classics and hate them. Hate them for being so damn good. Hate them for being difficult to understand. Love them later when you are ready. Cling to those books that had you hooked and figure out why you love it so. What was it that sucked you in and became a part of you? Find those pieces and never let them go.

As a writer, there is no such thing as a useless subject. You may not use everything but if you know what you are writing about it will show through your work.

Find your voice. Use your craft to figure out who you are. When you find your voice, others will listen.

Be patient. Writing does not come quickly. There is no shortcut. Books are never finished in the first draft, edits are not done one time through, covers do not draw themselves, and promotion is half of the battle. Always doubt yourself and have confidence in your work. Listen to those that know more than you. Accept criticism and ignore the trolls. Always have in mind the next project. One book will not dictate your success or failure. You reach your destination by always moving ahead.

The most important thing I could leave you with is this, never stop learning. The world is a living and breathing place. Move with it, breath it in and be a part of it. stories change, markets change, your life will change. Don’t let yourself be left behind.

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Gardening in Modern Times

As I mark the borders for the garden I will be planting in the spring I take a few things into consideration. At the moment, my garden is directly in the ground with top soil and years of compost added over the years. A lack of ambition last year created a thick layer of weeds I will have to clean out as I clean out the compost piles as well. There will be a week or two of work before I can plant anything, the payoff afterwards will hopefully be a low maintenance garden that I can maintain.

On the side of my house I have three raised boxes for square foot gardening. The end goal for those boxes is to do herb gardening only a few feet outside of the kitchen. 8×4 ft per box gives me a lot of room for herbs I use and can store over the winter once they are dried out.

The back yard has two large plots that are being converted into square foot gardening beds. In previous years, I used intensive gardening technics, this involves turning the soil once, never stepping on the soil and adding compost at the beginning and end of each planting year. The upside is that the plots being converted are already fertile with dark soil that drains well while retaining water. With the square foot gardening, I will be able to use more of the available space for higher crop yield and preventing weeds throughout the season. The down side is that for any vines I grow I need a trellis to have them grow up. In square foot gardening plants grow up, not out. This can be a major benefit but it adds to the cost of the project.

Planning the garden is fairly basic. The higher plants per box need to be planted in the northern rows to prevent shading the smaller plants. If you plant corn they are in the northern squares. Plants like radishes, carrots, or beets would be in the southern squares. In the middle squares, you can plant medium sized plants like peppers and tomatoes. All of these plants can share the sun and soil if you let them. In the past I learned that using organic gardening technics can have far better results than those that use artificial fertilizers and pesticides. Every year I have a group of praying mantis that return to my yard and eat everything I don’t want to have there. Pest have never been a problem with my personal army of alien looking killers.

I don’t know what the spring will bring, or how hot the summer will become. What I do know is that with the rain barrel and compost system my crops in the past have never been effected by drought or intense heat. Some crops like heat including tomatoes and peppers. Beans and broccoli on the other hand you can forget it. grow those in the spring and enjoy them while you can. I tried to grow these in autumn and it never works out. By the time the temperature drops for them to thrive it is almost winter and I never get to harvest before the first frost.

My tomato seedlings are an inch tall now. Peppers haven’t sprouted yet and I don’t know if they will. The house is at a steady 62 degrees and I’m guessing they need more heat than that. I hope they start to show themselves, we will have to wait and see.

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