Message and the Messenger

Who am I?
Who am I? Fashionista?

Who am I? It’s a question worth considering. My identity has changed over time. Not too long ago I was a black belt, rock climber, oarswoman, engineer, woman. Today I can claim musician, carpenter, camp director, woman. I still say I’m an engineer because the way an engineer thinks is permanently molded by their training no matter what they happen to do for a living. But the thing is I don’t like to be labeled. I want to be whoever I am in the moment and not restrained by preconceived ideas from myself or society. But that’s a dream world. A dream world I have the flexibility to inhabit much of the time but not if I want a job or to have influence over people. People want to know who you are. I can’t even go to play Bridge and avoid these questions. Where are you from? Why are you here? What do you do? I actually dread them. Every table at Bridge we go through the answers.

How we identify plays a deep role in what we believe. PETA? Vegan? Athiest? Business owner? These values influence our ability to receive and consider new information. Here are some issues: Vaccines. Evolution. Climate change. Animal rights. What are you? A Hippie? Christian? White? Black? Poor? Rich? Hungry?

Polls have shown that there are six categories of people on climate change. There are the dissmisive (10%), the doubtful (11%), the disengaged (7%), the cautious (27%), the concerned (28%), the alarmed (17%). A person’s identity will hold sway on their affinity to a certain opinion. People that prefer hierarchy and like a strong leader and rugged individualism are more likely to be doubtful and dismissive. This is true no matter their education level and science literacy. People that are more comfortable with egalitarianism and rules that favor the health of society over the individual are more likely to be alarmed or concerned. The more educated this egalitarian group is the more likely they are to be alarmed. Education has little effect. So throwing data around will not change minds. Women and minorities and younger people, regardless of education, are more concerned about climate change than men. White men are especially likely to be unconvinced that climate change is a thing.

They say that the messenger must fit in with the group they are trying to influence. They have to have shared values, they must be perceived as an expert, and the message must match the messenger. This is humans acting like chickens. Birds of a feather. I wish we could get beyond this but as Burt says, we’re all scared when we see a snake. We are hardwired to suspect the outsider. We can recognize this bias and try to work through it. We can recognize this bias and try to work with it. Consciousness is key.

Here are two examples of me dealing with this from my past.

Once upon a time I was a U.S. EPA environmental engineer. New rules had just come down under the Clean Air Act. I was responsible for enforcing the Stratospheric Ozone Protection act in the entirety of Montana. By myself. 1992 or 1993. I was young. I was a woman. I was an easterner. I was from the government. Lucky for me there were several trade groups that were interested in helping their members comply with the new rules. I was able to meet with the leaders of the trade groups to share how the government was going to phase out the use of CFCs and how small businesses could be licensed to manage the CFCs safely. These trade group leaders invited me to speak to their groups. I traveled the state and met with landfill operators, junk car facilities, auto mechanics, and air conditioning and refrigeration repair people. I never had a problem. I was there to help them comply. I was sympathetic to their situation. I knew the new rules were costly but they were also a business opportunity. Those that updated would stay competitive. I was helping them comply. They accepted me.

Then one day I was asked to give the speech to an organization called the Western Environmental Trade Association. I thought these guys were environmentally minded business owners. I was wrong. These were business owners with no role in the CFC industry. They were simply an anti-government, pro-business group with no desire to do right by the environment. It was a blood bath. They wanted to make a fool of me and they did.

I must admit that twenty years ago I didn’t know what to make of this. The business leaders were crude and rude. The blue collar workers were warm and understanding. Now I realize my blue collar roots, desire to help, and general sympathy played well before the labor groups. A government representative was a lamb to the slaughter for the business group. Especially an ill prepared government representative. This experience has always stayed with me as part of my identity. It helped me have to confidence to at least approach any group and try to connect.

The next notable experience was in my private life. I was in South Carolina about ten years ago visiting my parents and their friends. Burt was with me. At one point the group (moderate to conservative political leanings) started discussing organic food. I opted to not share my opinion and nobody asked. My role as silent daughter is well practiced. Soon they veered into climate change. A very with it friend that I know to be well educated and a nuclear engineer said it was bogus. I was on a couch ease dropping. The entire group agreed. They got all animated and then somebody saw the lamb on the couch. My dad asked, “Aren’t you going to defend climate change?” They had already labeled me a believer without inquiry. I took one look at the table full of raucous men that had known me since I was a toddler. I said, “You won’t listen to me so I won’t waste my breath.” And it was sad but nobody disagreed. They were sad because it would have been fun to argue and try to make a fool of me. I was sad because it was true.

For ten years I’ve thought I should have said something. Today I am saying something. They might not listen but I will say it.

 

 

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Walking and thinking and looking

Bridge in Point Reyes National Seashore.
Bridge in Point Reyes National Seashore. The 12′, 9′ are depicted on the explanatory sign below.

Laura and I have been walking the same loop every morning.  Some days we walk clockwise and other days we walk counterclockwise. Today we were late. It was day seven of our 3.6 mile loop through oak savanna and vineyards. I was tired. The boys were going, too, and they are louder and faster. I let them go ahead and slept a few more minutes and then Laura and I went without them at 10:00 instead of 8:00. Was I tired or avoiding the men? Probably both.

Each day our vision grows keener. We see more birds and can pick out the different ones more easily. Yesterday I discovered a new species for me, the California thrasher. I love a thrasher. They carry big bills and aren’t afraid to use them. Today I spotted a gaudy Townsends warbler in a mixed flock of mostly chestnut backed chickadees, titmice, and dark eyed juncos. The Townsends was a bird I’d seen once before in Montana and the chickadees turned out to be a new bird. The chestnut backed variety has a limited range and where we are now is one of the places it does not overlap with the black capped chickadee so score a new bird while completely unawares.

The boys are hard at work turning this spread into Barry and Laura’s home. I am unemployed. Barry has supplanted me as walking companion and assistant carpenter. He does not play Bridge. Yet. Today the boys told me they are going to pour a concrete slab. I responded with, “Did you know that concrete production accounts for 5% of all global CO2 emissions?” Yes. A shocking figure. Concrete, my beloved building material, foundation of civilized life, is a major producer of green house gases. It pains me to think it but knowledge is power and we need to look head on and decide how to adjust. Here are some other figures: Electricity production is 29% (if you think your plug in car is helping, think again), transportation (trains, planes, automobiles) 27%, Industry 21%, agriculture 9%. I’m not sure if the agriculture number includes production only or both production and transportation to market.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed and think it’s hopeless. But then look at the room for small steps each of us can take to reduce these numbers. Share a ride. Walk to work once a week (live on the job site like we do?). Cut down on meat. Buy locally. You’ll be healthier and the gas savings is always nice on the budget. Try a solar oven. We love ours.

Last week we took a walk out the Point Reyes National Seashore near San Francisco. They have a display there that viscerally depicts where sea level will be in the next 80 years. Since 1880 sea level has risen 8″. It is predicted to rise an additional 1′ to 4′ in the lifetime of a child born today. The bridge above will be completely submerged. Do we build a bigger bridge?

A sign depicting projected sea rise on the current bridge.
A sign depicting projected sea rise on the current bridge.
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Templeton, CA

New Table
New Table

These photos are a flashback to work in Oregon for a special family. This six person group wanted a bigger dining room table. Burt can’t make fine furniture with the tools we carry so he suggested Craig’s List or eBay. Burt even found a few second hand tables for sale in the area and the family insisted they wanted a table by Burt no matter how primitive. So Burt built a picnic table and it is large. There’s plenty of room for six people and their school work, crafts, meals, etc. The new table even allows the eldest boy to lock his personal chair to the table for safe keeping. You’ll have to ask him why. I didn’t dare stir up family drama and inquire as to who might be a chair thief.

Today we are parked at a friend’s/client’s place in Templeton, California. We are in wine and olive country. The ocean is nearby. Bridge, too. Barry and Laura are people we met in Portal. They’re engaged and we’ll be playing music for their wedding next month back in Portal. You’ll be hearing more as we get to work. First impression is good. There are a lot of turkeys and Barry offered me $5 for each gopher I kill.

Committee supervises
Committee supervises
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Galapagos Training

Annual Selfie. These filters hide all the decay.
Annual Selfie. These filters hide most of the decay.

Floods and fire everywhere we know. The Gypsy Carpenters world is burning down or underwater. Today we are at the edge of the continent looking westward and still the smoke blocks the view. Ocean winds are no match for the 140,000 acre blaze nearby. Last week we left the Willamette valley a day ahead of the over 100 degree heat. It was the second monstrous heat wave of the summer for an area that is normally very temperate. The same news in Montana, California, New Mexico, Washington. The west is on fire. It brings back the early 2000s when I first sunk into clinical depression during Helena’s summer of smoke. Friends there aer suffering again this year. I’m lucky to be mobile. We have found less intense smoke and lower temperatures. That’s enough. And friends.

Meanwhile there’s Houston but you all know about Houston. The news for us was our part of Baja was hit by Tropical storm Lidia. Lidia left nearly 30″ of rain in a day. That hasn’t happened in over 100 years. Cabo San Lucas looks like two feet of mud covered everything. Bridges are gone, landslides over roads, a friend’s house washed away. Only 4 people are known dead but 13 are missing. News from our town of Pescadero is that everyone is okay but roads are a mess. A nice reality check that this place we’ve chosen will always be interesting. Maybe development will take a breather.

As mother nature was reminding everyone who’s in charge we have been dallying on the Oregon coast. Our next job in in Templeton, Ca. It was 110 there yesterday. Hence the foot dragging. Rosemary and Ed hosted us for three night at Washburn State park and then we headed south to Bandon to our Mexican Bridge director’s home for a few more days. The living is good. Food, friends, animated discourse. While in Washburn we were able to visit Kate and Pat. Pat and Burt met keeping bees in the 70s. Kate’s just written a novel about the post-apocalypse. I hope it’s published soon. We may need the guidebook.

Daily activities during this stretch include what I call Galapagos training. Here’s a summary:

Squats while brushing teeth. To help with leg strength for embarking and disembarking of boats and climbing volcanoes.

Cold water swimming to hopefully cut down on the lengthy time it usually takes me to get in cold water. I’m hoping to develop an ability to suck it up and plunge. So far there’s improvement but still a lot of wasted mental effort and time.

Beach walking. Sand legs take a while to develop mentally and physically. Short steps.

Bird watching. Duh. Birds here are different but spotting and getting the binoculars in focus improves with practice.

No snacks. Food (snacks) are not allowed on excursions to unpopulated islands. This news has taken me by complete surprise. I must, again, prepare mentally and physically to be without snacks. Burt and I are building up slowly. I took an hour walk yesterday with only water.

Many thanks to Ed, Rosemary, Pat, Kate, Lorna and Meryl for providing companionship and places to park. Today we have bridge. Tomorrow California.

Feet on beach
Feet on beach. Preparing.
RR and Ed and pups
RR and Ed and pups. Where are the snacks?
Slug
Slug
Pretty purple flowers
Pretty purple flowers
Raft with legs
Raft with legs
The mini-me on the mighty Beaver River.
The mini-me on the mighty Beaver River.
worked rock
worked rock
The log at Lorna's place.
The log at Lorna’s place.
Burt really likes the log.
Burt really likes the log.
Bridge guru gets guitar lesson.
Bridge guru gets guitar lesson.
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Burt and his salmon.
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Random art at Sisters Rocks on the Oregon Coast
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Starfish at Sisters Rocks.
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Sea Cave at Sisters Rocks.
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Sunset on the New River. The red dot is a smoke shrouded sun.
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Post-eclipse withdrawl

Olinve, Bowman, and Elvis hang out.
Olive, Bowman, and Elvis hang out.

Helena friends, Rosemary and Ed, took a day off from their campground hosting duties and Carl Washburn State Park to visit us on the sunny side of the mountains. Ed alternately blames us and credits us for inspiring their semi-nomadic lifestyle. He and Rosemary spend a few months spring and fall back in Helena, Montana and the rest of the time they are volunteering in Death Valley of other parks or they are simply wandering the world. They visited Baja this past winter and are joining us in the Galapagos soon. Take it from them, it’s fun to travel with the GCs. Food is plentiful and tasty and the dogs play. Sometimes there’s songs to sing. If you’re really lucky Rosemary will dance. Our visit was a good treatment for the eclipse hangover I’m suffering.

Everybody has vacated our current site and we are (or Burt is) back at work.  It’s very quiet around here. We played some Bridge and some music and have done on-line shopping to prepare for our next season of wandering. Both of us need new footwear for the Galapagos.  Yesterday another wandering duo, Rolf and Bonnie of Portal, AZ, stopped by. Rolf and Bonnie had just visited the Galapagos so they had useful ideas on what to think about as we try to get ready. They even offered us the use of a rolling duffle bag that can be carried backpack style. Our trip to Europe showed us we have left duffle bag days behind and yet the gNash has no room for real luggage. We hardly ever have to pack and this year we are taking three international trips. One person in our party, and I know you’re thinking it was me but it wasn’t, over packed and over shopped for Europe. Some items purchased remain unused. But he is ready for a nice night out. I am pleased he has some stylish pants and shoes for the next time somebody invites us someplace stylish. The islands on the equator are not that place.

Still room to join us.

Recycled wood wood shed
Recycled wood wood shed
Rotten subfloor
Rotten subfloor
New floor
New floor
Glue
Glue. You can see the jack and the lifted post here. Lifting the post was important to get the rotten flooring out.
Vinyl patch
Vinyl patch
Eclipse art. Perfect cure for the eclipse hangover.
Eclipse art. Perfect cure for the eclipse hangover.
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Oregon Work

Musicians day before eclipse
Musicians day before eclipse

So we are back at work. Burt’s building a wood shed and I’m managing Portal Irish Music Week. Money is in and staff flights are reserved. We’ll be in OR for a week or so working and then another weekish visiting friends as we travel south to our next job in California. This has been a wandering summer and it was not planned.

Last year we committed to do a large job in this area. Ultimately that large job fell through but by luck and a large internet presence and our glittering personalities and BIG ONE HERE ability to improvise we put together enough jobs to sustain us for another year. Our friend Bruce (a highly trained professional) mentioned the improv. He suggests Life Improvisation should be the subject of a Gypsy Carpenters’ book. I say it already is if you read the blog. But for all of you following along here is a summary of how it works. The first rule of improv is: Yes, and…. That means you always answer with a yes and room to move. We’re pretty positive people around here and we try to ignore fear or at least not let it make our decisions. I wish there was more positivity and less fear for everyone. Really, I do.

I’m comfortable that we have enough. Make the pie bigger as my friend Bruce (a different Bruce) used to say.

Ryan and our  decks in use.
Ryan and our decks in use.
Brice knows how to listen.
Brice knows how to listen.
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A summer of wandering

Stone fly home
Stone fly home

We are lucky. We have food, shelter, love. I wish I knew how to bring peace and love to the rest of the world. What happens out there does take a toll on all of us. I’m trying to stay informed and well balanced. It’s very hard. After a slew of medical tests all is well, so far. One more test to go. I’m calling what appears to be a psychological malady Trumpitis. Stomach pain caused by fear and worry. Meanwhile I’m going to focus on the good I have and hope to share it with you and take my prilosec.

Over there in Montana we were fishing and cliff jumping and eating well. It was a nice break after a solid three weeks in Seattle. Today we are back in Alpine, OR. The Gypsy Carpenters are back at work and gearing up for the solar eclipse. Our trailer is parked at 99.67% eclipse totality. I read that the edge effects of the moon blocking the sun are glorious and mysterious and that we should make the effort to get to the 100% edge. Unfortunately that edge varies depending on your elevation and we just can’t be sure. In general calculations we need to be three miles north on Monday. For weeks the big debate has been should we make the effort and if we should, how? ‘Officials’ everywhere are predicting an epic micro-migration of the population and warning that we should shelter in place. They say the interstates will be immobilized and the markets will have no food. The Gypsy Carpenters are thinking we are pretty stout. We could walk 3 miles. We could float three miles. We could find our Gazeteer and drive three miles of back roads. What should we do? Stay or go?

I have my locally famous chorizo turkey meatloaf cooking while I contemplate all this stuff. That’s a way to focus on the good. Cook. Given the predictions of traffic and food shortages and the proximity of North Korea’s missiles, Burt indulged my paranoia and let me hoard some food. Part of the deal is I have to cook the food. Day one done. The rest of the menu is beans, lentils, peas. We’re going to get our fiber.

Blackfeet Nation
Blackfeet Nation. I think this found art sculpture is one of the finest I’ve ever seen.
Elvis wants to be with the cool kids.
Elvis wants to be with the cool kids.
The Bobo shows us he's still got it.
The Bobo shows us he’s still got it.
Cliff jumping
Cliff jumping
Olive was worn out. All that worrying.
Olive was worn out. All that worrying.
Cruising in the Lincoln.
Cruising in the Lincoln.
Owl Jerky.
Owl Jerky.
Mummified snowshoe hare.
Mummified snowshoe hare.
Bathing beauty.
Bathing beauty.
Yin Yang dogs.
Yin Yang dogs.
Team Gypsy Carpenter is on the road.
Team Gypsy Carpenter is on the road.
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Carpenter is Physicist

Below are two screen shots I took while exploring the interwebz. The NYTimes had a funny article on how the government classifies and describes jobs. Here is the LINK. I think the USA government must have last talked to a carpenter in 1883. He was probably some immigrant from Eastern Europe building a robber baron’s house on Long Island. According to the database here are some skills required by carpenters: Analyzing limb speed. Torso strength. Here are some unneeded attributes: Do not have to speak. No active listening. No knowledge of theology or philosophy. Penguins on toast (my new patented expletive). What world is this? In 2017 we have power tools and clients requiring massive therapeutic talks. You cannot be a successful carpenter without an ability to speak clearly, design, and measure accurately. You must be extremely familiar with gravity. In fact you must be very careful with gravity. I always joke that you have to practically have a degree in marriage counseling.

By using the tool you can find the opposite job to one you currently have. I put in carpenter and came up with physicist. This is a major data fail. And funny, too. I’d say carpenters are applied physicists. Both groups measure and build and understand the laws of nature. Carpenters are the original physicist. If civilization falls down around us I’d rather have a carpenter nearby than a physicist but I think both would be handy for putting up shelters and bridges. Carpenters are just easier to talk to than physicists.

It is a very entertaining game. I put in environmental engineer (me) and came up with an opposite of meat packer. I will happily say I am repulsed by meat plants and meat packing. This analysis was spot on both in the details of the job description and the philosophy behind the jobs. Industrialized meat packing is an environmental scourge.

Play the game and report back here with your jobs.

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