we are here

We made it to SF...I got sick on the plane, but other than that things went fine. We are rested up and ready to start writing.

Starting now.

Happy New Year everyone!


packing paralysis

We leave for SF in less than 48 hours for a month and I am not packed. I don’t even know where to start.

A bag.

Ok, I have the bag, but now what?

I pack better under pressure...



August G. Beckemeier Conservation Area

Across the street from Gram's house in St. Louis is the August G. Beckemeier Conservation Area. We have driven by it a thousand times and finally on this trip made it across the street. What a nice little conservation area. We were there just before sunset. See more pictures by clicking here.


ghost butter

We got this ghost butter the other day at dinner. It was too cute not to memoralize.



bike share in dc

Brent and I both joined the new bike share in DC. The bike share has bikes all over the city. A phone application lets you know which stations have bikes available. There is one station two blocks from our house and then another right by my office. I can walk over, get on, ride to work, and park the bike there. Then if I want to ride home, I do the same thing again. The first 30 minutes of any ride is free. You do have to pay a $75 annual fee to join the program, or in the alternative, you can buy a day pass for $5.

The only hassle really is remembering to bring your helmet everywhere in case you want to bike home, etc.



how Japanese people multiply

This is simply amazing. Love it.

Ok, it is apparently not Japanese but Vedic...Read more by clicking here.


nonprofits and annoying address labels

Dear Nonprofits of the World,

Please stop sending me address labels. I will not give you money if you send them to me. I understand, you see this as a service and a way to guilt me into giving you money. I am stronger than that. I will not feel guilty using the damn labels, even if I don't like the way the look...or the cartoon character on them. I don't want to be wasteful and they are perfectly good labels...I just don't want them.





There is an emerging (maybe) subculture of people who are more interested in living a minimalist lifestyle on their own terms rather than working in a cube. I find this interesting...

Here is a link to one such blog: http://rowdykittens.com/about/our-downsizing-story/

They live in a small apartment in Portland.

Here is another one: http://manvsdebt.com/.

He and his wife sold everything they owned, moved to Australia and New Zealand with their baby....amazing.

This is the blog post that brought this subculture into my brain today:
The Minimalist Guide to Leaving Your Soul-Crushing Day Job.

"The first step to leaving anything is preparation (but not too much of it.)

Written by Everett Bogue

This is the first of a three part series on using minimalism to leave your day job in order to live and work anywhere.

Don’t miss out! Sign up for free updates via email or RSS.

If you’ve been following this blog long, or read The Art of Being Minimalist, you know that I left my job last August in order to launch my minimalist business and live and work from anywhere.

If you’re in a situation like I was a year ago, –the monotonous repetitive days, the future of my creativity rapidly dying,– I imagine you want to do this too.

You want to be like Colin Wright, and country hop every four months. Or like Karol Gajda, making a reasonable living online while crafting a hand-made guitar in India. Maybe you want to be like Tammy Strobel and start a very small writing business to support your car-free lifestyle.

Maybe you want to be like you! That’s even better.

It doesn’t matter what ideal life you imagine, you just need to know that it’s possible.

Before I get started: whenever I write these types of things, I always get comments from two kinds of people who think I’m nuts.

The first is the people with kids, “oh it’s so hard, I could never do that” crowd.

I know, it’s so much easier to quit your job when you’re single and in your twenties, but it’s not impossible to change your life just because you decided to procreate. Leo Babauta started his own business and quit his job through minimalism, and he has six kids! You can too, no excuses!

The other group of people who comment are the ones who claim to love their job.

Great! I’m so happy for you, don’t change anything.

But, if you really love your job, why are you reading a blog post about leaving your job? Go read and comment on something else! …unless you actually secretly hate your job, in which case you need to ask yourself some hard questions. Don’t just deny everything until you wake up one day 15 years down the road and wonder where your life went.

Now then, let’s get to business…

The obstacles of leaving your job.

Quitting your job is never easy. There are a number of obstacles to overcome in order to even think of going out on your own...'

Read more by clicking through.


can you believe this?

Photo: Will Burrard-Lucas

Isn't it cute? It is a mini-Chameleon...Read more about it here. It is only an inch long...


adorable free calendar to download

Check out this fun calendar. You pick the month you want the owl to go with and then you put it together and print it. What a wonderful free gift to give! You can download it by clicking here.

bloomberg's businessweek

We love this "new" magazine. I put it in quotes because Businessweek has been around for years, but it was not until Bloomberg bought it that we started reading it. The magazine strikes the balance between business and cultural information perfectly. You get national and international information in proper size: not too much, not too little, just right. They profile CEOs and small entripenuers. And the graphics are simply amazing. They use the graphics to add to and distill the information presented in the magazine.

Here is a link to the magazine...click here.


the gingerbread party

It was a success again. Check out the pictures here...



"Wind turbins in America kill between 75,000 and 275,000 birds every year." Who knew? I found this article, from the Wall Street Journal to be so interesting, I posted it in my cube.

Original can be found by clicking here.

Studying the Biases of Bureaucratsby Matt Ridley
The Wall Street Journal

There is a fashionable new science—behavioral economics, they call it—which applies the insights of psychology to how people make economic decisions. It tries to explain, for instance, the herd instinct that led people during the recent bubble to override common sense and believe things about asset values because others did: the "bandwagon effect." And it labels as "hindsight bias" the all-too-common tendency during the recent bust to imagine that past events were more predictable than they were. Behavioral economics has also brought us notions like "loss aversion": how we hate giving up a dollar we have far more than forgoing a dollar we have not yet got.

But while there is a lot of interest in the psychology and neuroscience of markets, there is much less in the psychology and neuroscience of government. Slavisa Tasic, of the University of Kiev, wrote a paper recently for the Istituto Bruno Leoni in Italy about this omission. He argues that market participants are not the only ones who make mistakes, yet he notes drily that "in the mainstream economic literature there is a near complete absence of concern that regulatory design might suffer from lack of competence." Public servants are human, too.

Mr. Tasic identifies five mistakes that government regulators often make: action bias, motivated reasoning, the focusing illusion, the affect heuristic and illusions of competence.

In the last case, psychologists have shown that we systematically overestimate how much we understand about the causes and mechanisms of things we half understand. The Swedish health economist Hans Rosling once gave students a list of five pairs of countries and asked which nation in each pair had the higher infant-mortality rate. The students got 1.8 right out of 5. Mr. Rosling noted that if he gave the test to chimpanzees they would get 2.5 right. So his students' problem was not ignorance, but that they knew with confidence things that were false.

The issue of action bias is better known in England as the "dangerous dogs act," after a previous government, confronted with a couple of cases in which dogs injured or killed people, felt the need to bring in a major piece of clumsy and bureaucratic legislation that worked poorly. Undoubtedly the rash of legislation following the current financial crisis will include some equivalents of dangerous dogs acts. It takes unusual courage for a regulator to stand up and say "something must not be done," lest "something" makes the problem worse.

Motivated reasoning means that we tend to believe what it is convenient for us to believe. If you run an organization called, say, the Asteroid Retargeting Group for Humanity (ARGH) and you are worried about potential cuts to your budget, we should not be surprised to find you overreacting to every space rock that passes by. Regulators rarely argue for deregulation.

The focusing illusion partly stems from the fact that people tend to see the benefits of a policy but not the hidden costs. As French theorist Frédéric Bastiat argued, it's a fallacy to think that breaking a window creates work, because while the glazier's gain of work is visible, the tailor's loss of work caused by the window-owner's loss of money—and consequent decision to delay purchase of a coat—is not. Recent history is full of government interventions with this characteristic.

"Affect heuristic'" is a fancy name for a pretty obvious concept, namely that we discount the drawbacks of things we are emotionally in favor of. For example, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill certainly killed about 1,300 birds, maybe a few more. Wind turbines in America kill between 75,000 and 275,000 birds every year, generally of rarer species, such as eagles. Yet wind companies receive neither the enforcement, nor the opprobrium, that oil companies do.

If lawmakers are to understand how laws get applied in the real world, they need to know and understand the habits of mind of their officials.

—Matt Ridley's many books include, most recently, "The Rational Optimist" and "Francis Crick." His weekly column explores the science of human nature and its implications.



My good friend Carol is at the end of her 4-year term as County Commissioner in Queen Ann's County Maryland. She won four years ago in an October surprise. She worked tirelessly for the people of her county trying to build a sustainable future. She sent me her farewell speech which I really enjoyed.

"Our government does things for us that we cannot do for ourselves. Our family’s taxes could not even pay for our public school educations. We in QAC are fortunate to live in MD that has the best schools in the country. We have some of the best schools in the state. Even more important, we pay the lowest cost per pupil than any other county in the state.

That is real value, but not the only one we receive here.

I am an experienced manager and I can say that our County employees and staff are some of the most dedicated, hard working and skilled people I have worked with. They give us true value for our tax dollars.

Our public safety people, fire and EMS volunteers, are top notch. Our paid, professional DES has reduced response times dramatically during the past four years – all real value to our citizens and all who pass through our County.

The County depends upon many other citizen-volunteers who serve on our boards and commissions, in our schools, on our playing fields, and in volunteer civic groups such as the Local Management Board, animal rescue, the arts, 4H, Future Farmers, and scouts. ALL are of real value to us.

All of these people are the real Queen Anne’s County. We 5 are just the public face.

I have done my best to help protect our flora and fauna, watersheds and waterways as I promised four years ago.

Thank you all for giving me this opportunity, the honor of serving my adopted county.

I can now devote more time to my family, reading books (I held up two books – “The Poky Little Puppy” (it got a laugh) and “Mark Twain’s Autobiography”.) This is a copy of one of my first books and this is the one I am reading now – still slogging through the Introduction. (Gregg Todd shouted out “He dies at the end.”) Now I don’t have to finish reading it. …and civic activities.

We all need to become better informed and more active. None of this comes for free and all County costs are rising. Please attend and speak out at the Budget Hearings, especially if you are concerned with the losses of necessary services.

As Thom Hartmann says – “Tag, you’re it!” Actually, WE'RE it."

Great work Carol!