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Views on Basic Income

Just a short post. I think this might be a way that I can get myself to post more to this blog. In the past I had this feeling that each post should be on the longish side, and so when I had an idea to write something I’d wait and wait until I felt I had “enough to say” to make a post. We see how well that worked (looks at last post…2012).

I support a basic income for all people over the age of 18. My idea, and I’ve either come up with this on my own (unlikely) or co-opted various things I’ve read over the years on this subject (most likely), is that that basic income should be $30,000US. If you work, the basic income makes up the difference between your wage and the 30,000.

And with that basic income, there should be a maximum income. I put this at $3,000,000US. There is no person on this earth that works 100% harder than any other person on this earth. There is no reason that one person should ever need more than 100% than any other person on this earth. Anything over the maximum is taxed and used to support (among other things) the basic income.

Most people will consider this insane. Maybe. I think we live in an really insane time.

Ugh! I am not a good html coder, and yet I try my hardest at the Daruma An Website. Meaning, I spent the day updating the Daruma An website. The English section has this year’s offerings and prices, while the Japanese section has the prices, but I’m still waiting on the blurbs for the offerings from my boss. I’m sure he’s hunting and pecking away as I type this. :D

So, yeah, the site is not that pretty. Like I said, I’m not the best html coder. Every time I sit down and work with the various pages and css sheets and photos it feels like I’m having to learn html all over again. Which, actually, is what happens. I update the site maybe once a year, and so all that neat html info I learned during the last update has since left my brain. We really should just pay a professional to do our site for us. But when we talk about it, I always (stupidly) say, “no, no, I can do it.”

Whenever I finish with the html work, though, I’m always surprisingly satisfied with the new knowledge I gain and want to continue, but other work seems to intrude way too soon and learning more html gets pushed to the back burner. Maybe this time will be different. We really need to figure out how to get some sort of online-shop working so folks can just order directly off the site rather than having to download the pdf and either fax it to us or send us an email.

Enough with the html lament. One question I’ve gotten a couple times over the past month from folks who’ve read this blog (a low low low number, mind) is “how did the composting go?” Last winter I went to Thailand for a farm-stay and when i came back wanted to try the 18-Day Composting technique I’d learned while there. I posted about a home-brew adaptation of the technique I was trying using rice straw and kome-nuka (rice shavings).

So, how’d it go? Well, it went OK, but not as well as things in Thailand. All of the fault lies with yours truly, I think, rather than with the technique. An 18-day compost requires constant supervision over the course of those 18 days, and I did not give it that. We made the piles at my boss’s house and since I wasn’t over there all the time, there were spans of days where I did not get to turn it over when I should have. What happened was that the pile would get too hot and burn itself out. All was not lost, though, cause we were able to mix in the burned out piles with new compost heaps and try again. The dirt we ended up with turned out pretty nice and we used it to re-plant some of the blueberry bushes we had around my boss’s house and also to grow some hops. The hops didn’t work this year; we planted too late. But we’ll trim the bines down over winter and next year they should be great.

Random thought to leave you with: I think I’ve finally gotten over my habit of typing 2 spaces after a period. Damn that habit was hard to get over…thanks for nothing, highschool typing class!

This is what happens when a wind-storm runs wild over Sado Island for an evening:

That is, or was, our green house. Twelve hours before this photo it was nicely covered in clear plastic ready to keep our rice trays warm and comfy. Now it is a mess. The plastic is all ripped up and the frame is bent.

It’s not all a disaster. We have a bigger green house which houses the majority of our rice trays and it’s doing just fine. Also, we can fix this one up and use it; just means more work during this busy time of the year. :)

Adventures in Composting

Not even going to talk about my lack of blogging. ;)

This past January I spent 3 weeks doing a farmstay at a permaculture farm in Thailand called the Panya Project. I had a great time there and recommend it to anyone looking for a place to learn a bit about permaculture and visit Thailand at the same time. One of the cool things that I learned there and am trying to implement here in Japan is the 18-Day Compost.

Basically the 18-Day Compost does exactly what it says on the tin. Rather than having a slow compost like most folks have, which takes months to finish, an 18 day compost takes…you guessed it!…18 days. The keys of this kind of compost are keeping a 3 to 1 ratio of carbon to nitrogen ingredients–carbon being sawdust, autumn leaves, straw, etc. and nitrogen food scraps, manure, greens (like fresh cut grass)–and keeping it the right temperature–between 55 and 65 degrees Celsius. This kind of composting is supposed to work anytime of year and anywhere around the world. The guy at Panya said you could do this in Antarctica if you had the right materials. It was the middle of Sado winter when I got back from Thailand. While not Antarctica, I was going to put that assertion to the test. :)

Since it was the middle of the winter here on Sado, it was hard to come by a lot of greens for the carbon. There were some food scraps in a composting bin at my bosses naya, and we have a friend that has horses so we could use the manure. But looking at it it seemed like the scraps in the bin had mostly rotted and the manure had been in its own composting pile. I felt we needed something fresh. Nabe suggested komenuka which are rice shavings (after you de-husk rice, it comes out brown, so you have to run that brown rice through a machine to shave off a bit of the outside and turn the brown rice to white). Komenuka is a fine powdery substance a lot like flour. For the browns we ended up using only rice straw, which we had plenty of from last year’s harvest.

This was our pile. We first laid down a layer of dry rice straw. On top of that we put a layer of wet rice straw. Your compost pile needs to be saturated to get going, and we had a lot of rice straw on the ground under the Sado snow. Then we put another layer of dry straw. On top of that we’d sprinkle a bunch of komenuka and then shake the pile so the stuff would spread throughout the layers.

The final product looked like this:

We ended up building a about 8 piles, but only 3 or so of them were the komenuka only experimental piles. The others were a mixture of the rotting food scraps and manure and rice straw.

You’re supposed to let the piles sit for 4 days and then turn them from inside to outside and bottom to top. But after the 4 days it seemed like a few of the manure/food scrap piles weren’t hot at all, so we ended up combining them with a couple of the komenuka-only piles. After another 4 days the temperature was nice and hot–just under 60 degrees Celsius. When we went to turn it over, you could see the steam rising from the pile.

After turning the pile on the 4th day, you’re supposed to turn the pile every 2 days from then on. I just turned the pile today, so we’re at 6 days so far. There was some whitish stuff on the inside of the pile, which might be a sign that it’s not “fluffed” enough. The temperature was a decent 60ish degrees Celsius, though. I’ll try airing it out a bit tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing how this works out!

I don’t even want to look at the date on the last post because it will make me feel even more guilty than I already feel for not updating the blog.

Another season has come and gone without even a peep here at Confessions. I have been Tweeting about it, but that’s not much consolation to those who don’t use Twitter or don’t know my handle there (@mwdowns, for those so inclined). However, I am back now and have a few pictures to post. :)

This past week we finally finished all of our harvesting and shucking and bagging. So for the rest of the year we’ll be filling orders and cleaning up the equipment for next year. Haven’t decided on a winter project just yet, but I am thinking of heading to Thailand to do a farm-stay for a couple weeks. Once I know for sure, I’ll let y’all in on the details.

We had a bunch of help from the local ALTs here on Sado when we were harvesting our organic rice. We did a full day of cutting and hanging!

Also we’ve updated our website (www.daruma-an.com) and our packaging.

Hopefully I can be a little more active in my posts from now on.

No, not really, I farm on Tuesdays, but I thought I might try something new to give me more material to write about here (and maybe give me a little extra motivation to post more…deadlines!).  No Farming on Tuesdays will be a time to write about whatever is on my mind that week, be it games, the weather, music, whatever.  Todays topic:  Barnes & Noble and my annoyance with them.

I’m a bit of a gadget guy.  I like fiddling with computers, poking around in Linux, using digital media and smartphones and such.  I’ve moved my music collection to .FLAC and .mp3 and ripped all my DVDs to .mkv.  The few pictures I have are stored on my computer and backup external hard drives.  I dual boot Windows 7 and whatever flavor of Linux I happen to be interested in at the time.  I built my own computer using custom parts.  And though I’ve known about eBooks for the longest time (an undergrad professor of mine was given a Rocket eBook and brought it to class…this in the time before the iPod revolution), I’ve held out jumping on that bandwagon.  I love physical books.  Love the way the pages feel on my hands.  Love the way a book smells after its been sitting on a shelf for years and years.  Love the different paperback covers a book goes through.  Love them.  eBooks will just never be the same.

Or so I thought.  I received a Nook for my birthday last year.  And I haven’t looked back.  In .mp3 standards the 4 gigabytes of memory space may seem small, but when an eBook weighs in at around 500 kilobytes, that memory is more than enough to hold more books than I could hope to read in my lifetime (I’m a slow reader).  No more deciding which book to take on a long trip only to find out that my choice isn’t doing it for me and I’d have rather brought something else.  No more skimming over words I think I know the meaning to only because a dictionary isn’t handy.  Don’t like the font?  Change it.  Type to small, enlarge it.  eBooks, where have you been all my life.

Which isn’t to say that I’m over physical books all together.  I still love everything about them that I mentioned above, and I still buy physical books every now and then (it’s hard to turn down a nice trade paperback title when browsing the bookstore at the train station), but if the title is available as an .epub there’s more of a chance that I’ll make that purchase.

Thus my annoyance with Barnes & Noble.  I live in Japan.  Barnes & Noble lives in the US.  I can’t buy a book from them.  Not even from their website.  barnesandnoble.com sees that I’m connecting through a Japanese IP and blocks me when I try to make a purchase.  The reason, I’ve found out, is because book publishers have imposed these restrictions on B&N and other American book sellers because of copyright restrictions and tax reasons.  The only sites I can buy eBooks from are Amazon, Borders, and a handful of smaller niche booksellers (the best of which is Bean Webscription Books, a great place to get my sci-fi fix).  If I want to access the B&N site and buy I book, I have to route my internet through a US based proxy, which, without using a pay service, is asking for a case of identity theft.

So, what are my options, B&N?  If you won’t use your weight as the largest “brick and mortar” bookseller in the US to force the publishers to relent in their stupid restrictions, what do I do?  I can use Borders.  They sell eBooks in the .epub format, which my Nook can read.  I’ve already made a couple purchases through them and it’s pretty easy, except for the fact that I have to install Adobe Digital Editions to access my .epub.  However, one of the reasons that really like the Nook is that it has this really nifty coverflow feature, like in iTunes, which lets you flip through the covers of all the books you own.  Oh, wait, I mean all the books you’ve purchased from B&N.  Didn’t buy the book from B&N?  Those books go in the My Documents folder, which doesn’t use the coverflow feature.  *le sigh* I can use Amazon.  Of course their eBook format has DRM and is not compatible with the Nook, but there are ways around both of those so that I can get it in a format I can use.  Or I can use a pay proxy site or VPN in order to trick B&N into thinking I’m in the US.

Or I can just pirate the books.  This is not an option right now, because I want to pay for the new eBooks I get (books, I already own in physical form, yeah, I pirate those).  But the hoops B&N makes you jump through to buy books from them, and the features it denies you because you bought your books from someone else are really starting to irk me.  Not enough to just start pirating books.  But, right now I’m paying 7 bucks a month for a VPN so that I can access their site, and I think that I’m just going to write that off as 7 bucks I’m not going to spend at their site.  Maybe I would have bought 2 books, but now I’m just going to buy 1.  And that 1 book I didn’t buy with you, I’m going to buy at your competitor’s site.

Small protest, I know.  But there’s not much else I can do.  So, B&N, if you’re reading this, you have a satisfied Nook owner (solely for the hardware aspects of the device) that is irked with your international eBook retail policies.  Irked, I say!

Ooof!  I don’t even want to look at the post date of my last entry.  And if I tell you all Happy New Year, it makes it seem even longer ago!  But I guess I should just own my lack of blog-ability and face facts.  Happy New Year!  :)

A couple weeks after my last entry I went back to the States for about 3 weeks to spend the Holidays with the fam.  That was a blast and I was able to see a lot of my old high school friends as well.  It was my first time back during the Holidays in about 8 years.  The last New Years I spent in the States was 2001!  Here’s a couple picture highlights of the trip:

That first image is of my niece, Mackenzie Jane Downs.  She is almost 2 years old and this trip was the first time I got to meet her.  She’s a cutie-pie.  She’s in her bear outfit there, but she’s much cuter when she puts on her Baby Gaga outfit.  The second picture is of an Atlanta Thrashers game I went to…thanks Jamie for the tickets.  Watching hockey while I was back made me realize that that is one of the biggest things I miss about being in the US.  Japan just isn’t that into ice hockey.  The last pick is Whirlyball.  Think lacrosse mixed with basketball mixed with bumper-cars.  Yes, it’s that awesome!

Once I got back, I didn’t have too much farming to do, seeing as how it’s the middle of the winter.  But I have kept myself busy with odds and ends around the island:

About once a week, I have been loaned out to a friend of Nabe’s who grows blueberries.  As loyal readers already know, Nabe and I are thinking about expanding our business to start growing blueberries along with rice.  Miyuki, Nabe’s friend, started growing blueberries about 3 or so years ago and has been giving us pointers on how to get started.  And since during the winter there isn’t too much for a rice farmer to do, I’ve been helping her out with the blueberries.

During the other days of the week I’m usually over at Nabe’s house playing carpenter.  Nabe wants to build a room on the second floor of his naya as a place where WWOOFers and HelpXers can stay when they’re visiting.  The second floor of the naya was pretty bare so we’ve had a lot of work to do, but it’s coming along nicely as you can see in the picture.

I’ve still got about 3 or 4 weeks of this until we start getting ready for the planting season.

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