Going Analog Side Quest: Ditching the Smartphone Part 1


Behold, ye olde smart paper.

Another goal I haven’t talked about in terms of going analog is that I eventually want to get rid of my smart phone.

It is, quite possibly, one of the greenest things the average person can do, up there with swearing off air travel: the digital and physical infrastructure required to keep the behemoth mobile market afloat is inexcusably enormous. Three years ago it was estimated that 48 million tons of electronic gadgetry is thrown out annually, and of that, about 155 million cell phones every year. (And who knows what that number is now.)

And that’s just the physical products themselves. What about all the throwaway technology required to build, market, and house the apps that make smart phones what they are? The throwaway peripherals: the plastic cases, the dongles, the portable batteries, the bluetooth products? What about the planned obsolescence involved in pushing a new model every 12-18 months, with making phones harder and harder to take apart and fix, and by sheer complexity alone, making them more fragile pieces of hardware overall? What about the infrastructure required to bring you all that stuff “in the cloud”?

Our phones are the very tip-top of an iceberg of gross unsustainability, runaway “progress”, and human suffering. (Yes, human suffering – if you’ve ever found yourself nodding in agreement at the damning assessments of the diamond industry, then you’ve no leg to stand on here. Especially since this sort of digital infrastructure is also contributing to orders of magnitude more ecosystem destruction than the diamond trade. But of course, it’s easier to hate something you can’t afford and don’t think you need.)

Are basic mobile phones an ideal solution? Of course not – but their comparative simplicity makes them more durable, their battery life much longer, and by virtue of not being every single piece of entertainment and tool we’re likely to use in our day-to-day, they’re not out of our bags or pockets nearly as often, and therefore the opportunities to break them even slimmer. They’re also not money-makers for the companies that produce them, so there’s no pusher man trying to get you to upgrade at every chance he gets.

Unfortunately, my Android phone is a major set-piece in my life right now, and like with any good drug, it’s going to take some time to wean myself off of it.

First, it might be a useful exercise to remember how I used to do things before smart phones. And it wasn’t that long ago that I started using them: in fact, I was using a regular mobile phone when I graduated college 5 years ago.

How did I navigate NYC without Google Maps? I wrote down addresses and got good at drawing tiny maps the size of post-it notes that told me everything I needed to know (and nothing more) about my destination’s location. I also didn’t worry about getting lost. Besides, it turns out that using maps is actually better for your brain than using GPS.

How did I find out good places to eat on the fly? Most of the time, I didn’t – I took more chances, asked around, or left my apartment with a plan, and had every bit as much of a good time as I do now, and discovered many little gems along the way.

How did I use social media? Well, I didn’t. Or barely did, and barely do. Personally, I’m of the opinion that most social media acts more like metastasized cancer than not, and I’m not fond of it. I avoid Twitter whenever possible, abandoned Facebook years ago, use Pinterest once in a blue moon as a Google image search substitute, and rarely directly interact with other people on Tumblr, and won’t miss it should it disappear. The only one I would miss is Instagram, but I can browse that on my computer anyway. Almost all of the meaningful connections I’ve ever made online were via forums, or other early Internet 2.0-style social websites. Instantaneous online interaction with strangers does to me what a ride in the Vomit Comet does to folks with no aptitude for space travel.

How did I keep myself entertained during long trips, or while sitting in waiting rooms? First of all, I don’t need to be “entertained” every minute of every day, and if I feel the itch to do so, then I nip it in the bud, because that’s a one-way ticket to misery. So, I take a note from the generations of playbooks that came before me: sit patiently, look at my surroundings, read a book, draw a picture, people-watch, grab a drink, strike up a conversation, listen to music, daydream, meditate, take notes, look at my calendar…

Hey, speaking of calendars, the point of this post was really to talk about ways in which I’m keeping organized without the use of any calendar or memo app:

It’s this radical new thing called an organizer.

Or technically, a traveler’s notebook.

The traveler’s notebook is an increasingly popular format of notebook, as it’s 100% customizable, and due to it’s extremely simple binding system, you’re not limited to proprietary inserts. All you need to make your own is a pair of scissors.

In fact, why not just made the whole darned thing? (Which is tempting; the only frustrating thing about mine is that it does not accomidate 8.5×11″ paper folded in half; pre-made notebooks take 210x110mm size paper, which… doesn’t correspond to any western paper sizes, no matter how you fold them.)

I’ve only had mine for a few months, and I already don’t go anywhere without it. It carries all of my drawing supplies, an insert of blank pages which I use for note-taking and as a monthly calendar, and I have another booklet in there of grid paper which I use to thumbnail comic pages. It’s not meant to go in a notebook system like this at all so it was a little awkward at first, but I can’t imagine carrying a bunch of smaller books now. Also, I tried making my own insert of grid paper, but the ends chafed at the band a lot so I’ll need to put it with a cover that’s made from a tougher paper or cardstock next time. My current booklet should last me… years, though.

As for the calendar, I’m able to fit an entire month on a single side of paper, with each day getting its own row. It looks like this:


And so on. Seeing as how most of what I need to mark down is repetitive in nature, I’ve got a lot of little codes that makes it easy to fit several tasks for a single day on one of those little rows. So, for example, Nov 1st might look like this:

N01T: C4080 PI4081, ITS | 10-4

That means on Tuesday, November 1st, I need to color (and finish) page 4080 of my comic, pencil and ink page 4080, finish a chapter of my story, of which ITS is the abbreviation, and work from 10am to 4pm at my new job. Of course that’s all way too much for me to do in one day, but it’s an example of how much information I can cram into so little real estate.

What about calendar reminders, you might be asking? Well, how about glancing at my calendar in those empty, entertainment-less moments throughout the day instead of compulsively looking at my (nonexistent) Twitter feed or checking my email?

Up next: an everyday carry post! Because I haven’t done one yet at ALL, which amazes me, seeing as how I was doing “systems” posts for a while there, and this would definitely fall under that umbrella.

Also next: probably a post on the Fear of Missing Out.

“Animism At The Dinner Table”

As an animist and vegetarian, the subject of food is near and dear to my heart. I can’t stand utilitarian arguments when it comes to food, because plants and ecosystems often get left out of the conversation altogether. How many times have I heard vegans laugh at people who ask about the rights of plants? That’s not a facetious question to me, and it seems that vegans who brush it off as quackery don’t have a very good grasp of what they’re actually fighting for. Talk about speciesism!

Sarah Anne Lawless is an animist who I respect very much, and this is a long blog post from her about how to eat like an animist – that is, eat like someone who believes that everything is alive and intelligent in its own way.

When the world was awash with animism, the people viewed food as sacred and precious. Nature was God and thus food was God. Little berry deities on the bush, succulent root deities in the earth, sweet deity blood as sap running from a tapped birch tree. Animals were deities too, presided over by the wild and fearsome forest gods who could curse or kill those who did not treat their realm with respect. Ancient hunters would ask permission of these wild gods before hunting their deer or boar. Ancient gatherers would ask permission before picking berries or harvesting the soft edible cambium or underbark of trees. All that is left of these beliefs and practices is folklore and prayers from both the Old and New Worlds, collected as anecdotes rather than as a body of living lore.


The more you do this the more you may start to notice that the natural world responds back. Maybe the forest will reveal its best berry picking and root-digging spots to you after your good treatment of its denizens, its resources. Maybe it will get less and less hard to find deer during hunting season after you’ve consistently asked for permission from the forest. Maybe you’ll end up with more fish from the river than you’ve ever caught before after years of giving it simple offerings, asking respectfully for a good catch, and cleaning up any garbage you find. If you dwell in a more sub/urban area, maybe it will be simply that your vegetable garden flourishes as never before and your chickens lay the best eggs after being treated with love. Perhaps you’ll find an incredibly productive blackberry bush in an unexpected corner of the city away from pollution that yields its fruits to you scratch-free. Whatever they may be, the rewards for your philosophy in action will become apparent and very much real.


Many people’s solution is to become vegetarian or vegan to stop participating in the industrial machine that treats animals this way. We laud ourselves for being so ethical, but in doing so we can easily forget that plants deserve fair treatment just as much as animals do. We forget to think about the forests and wetlands destroyed so they can be replaced by fields of organic carrot and soy bean monocrops in California.

We forget to think about the environmental footprint of importing fruits, vegetables, and grains over long distances. We forget to think about if our produce has been genetically modified or altered or covered in herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides and what the health effects of such things are upon the land, its waters, the animals that live on it, the bees who pollinate it, the farmers that tend it, and our children who eat its fruits. We forget to think about if the produce was commercially grown on land raped of its nutrients and filled with fertilizers to compensate, leaching into the water supply and contaminating it for animals and humans. Yes, even organic agriculture is guilty of this.

We forget to think about if our produce was grown with long-term sustainability in mind. Farmers,  animals, and whole ecosystems are dying so we can eat organic soybeans and corn we don’t actually need. How many people have to die and how much more research has to be done before we abandon the Frankenstein that is modern commercial agriculture? Even organic agriculture is not sustainable, not the way we are currently practicing it. How many studies must be done proving plants are intelligent and can feel pain before we start to treat them better and stop splicing their genes and covering them in toxic chemicals? How long until we realize maybe we can’t always do this better than Nature naturally does?

Read the rest at her website. Please do, it’s a very humble, inspiring read!

Going Analog: Part 3

Or, On Mistakes


One of the things you’d think would be painfully obvious when making analog art, but isn’t necessarily so, is how to handle mistakes.

Digital media doesn’t encourage economy in any way. We’re free to use as much “ink” or “paint” as we want, free to use an endless number of layers to achieve whatever effect we’d like, free to make our canvases as unthinkably enormous as our computers can handle. Overwrought and overproduced is usually met with awe and adulation more often than not in the realm of digital art, and hyper-realism (which doesn’t ever look anything like reality) is the norm.

So the one thing that really hits like a ton of lead when you’re recreating a digital workflow in the analog world is that you need to get the hang of economy. Economy of material or you’ll soon find yourself in possession of a bunch of tools you don’t need – or can’t afford. Economy of process or you’ll waste a lot of time doing things the hard way. Economy of movement or you’ll smear something that’s not quite dry or knock something over on your table. And most importantly, economy of line or you’ll make mistakes.

It’s a perfect example of the zen experience of doing; it’s mindfulness to the extreme. Move carefully, purposefully, thoughtfully. Every line you make needs to make sense and be placed where it was meant to be. If something winds up where it doesn’t belong, integrate it or fix it with more care and economy. There’s no ctrl + z with pen and ink. Erasing too much changes the texture of the paper, and more than a coat or two of white paint over inking mistakes it usually enough to merit having to redraw the panel. You can’t fuck up into infinity like you can with a digital drawing program.

If you want to rush it and get the thing done as fast as possible, you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to make a lot of mistakes, and you’ll want to doctor them away in Photoshop because fixing them the analog way also takes time and deliberation.

Some would call it a tedious waste of time, but I call it breathing room in an already hectic world.

It also reminds me of a favorite Zen koan that I found on a minimalist blog once:

A monk told Joshu: “I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.”
Joshu asked: “Have you eaten your rice porridge?”
The monk replied: “I have eaten.”
Joshu said: “Then you had better wash your bowl.”

Don’t pencil until the thumbnails are done. Don’t ink until the pencils are done. Don’t scan until the inks are done. If I rush, then things aren’t truly “done” before I move onto the next stage, and if I try to build on something incomplete, then the groundwork for messing up is already laid for me. Mistakes are almost guaranteed. And it can all be avoided with a little more care and mindfulness.

How To Shop for White Inks

Shopping for actual white ink/paint can be tricky, depending on the application. For going over fudged inks, you’d want something waterproof so that you can draw over it once its dry. I bought the wrong stuff for my needs: Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bleed Proof White, which looks gorgeous, by the way, but isn’t waterfast. Here’s a guide I found on white calligraphy inks (to use with dip pens). But so far, the only white cover-up paint I’ve found that is both waterfast and usable with a brush is Deleter brand. I could probably use white gouache, and I might give it a go – it’s certainly easier to find in art stores than Deleter white.

What I’m Reading: A Friday Link Roundup

War On Cash – The Long and Short
Credit card companies and businesses that have an interest in tracking your spending have declared a war on cash. Here’s what it looks like, and here’s why you should be worried.

Thousands of strange blue lakes are appearing in Antarctica, and it’s very bad news – Science Alert
Meltwater lakes are appearing on the East Antarctica ice shelf, which scientists had previously thought was less susceptable to climate change than the peninsula.

Learning from Failure: A Modest Introduction – The Archdruid Report
A brief survey of the US political landscape as of late, plus reasons why the climate change movement has failed. Interestingly enough, I think this is where the zero waste movement might have a chance – it’s focused, partisan, and small battles are easily won. I don’t wholly agree with his sweeping denunciation of the movement, but I think he’s about 90% on-target. Namely that he thinks environmental incrementalism would have ever done the trick in one breath, and then in the next he maintains that industrial civilization is doomed anyway. To me, we would have needed to start making incremental modifications to our consumption and fossil fuel use since WW2 – though the war was probably one of the things that doomed us anyways – in order to have a chance at maintaining some sort of status quo from the 20th century. Winning battles in the 80’s would have, IMO, still been too little too late. Because of this:

Climate urgency: we’ve locked in more global warming than people realize – The Guardian
“So far humans have caused about 1°C warming of global surface temperatures, but if we were to freeze the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide at today’s levels, the planet would continue warming. Over the coming decades, we’d see about another 0.5°C warming, largely due to what’s called the “thermal inertia” of the oceans (think of the long amount of time it takes to boil a kettle of water). The Earth’s surface would keep warming about another 1.5°C over the ensuing centuries as ice continued to melt, decreasing the planet’s reflectivity.”

Beyond Hope – Orion Magazine
Derrick Jensen talks about how “hope” might actually be detrimental to how environmentalists are prepared – or not – to face the future.

Baking Substitutions

The hubs and I made a trip to Costco a couple weekends ago and treated ourselves to a box of brownie mix – it came with six bags of mix! No, not particularly zero waste, but it should last us a long time.

A few days ago I visited our local market and saw they had bags of bruised apples on their “day old” produce shelf – everything there is a dollar and would otherwise get thrown out – so I grabbed some, hoping that I’d get a chance to make some kind of baked dessert before they headed too far south. I didn’t get a chance to do that, so I whipped out my manual puree grinder and made some applesauce out of what was left. It wasn’t exactly great… kinda starchy. So I got worried. What the heck would I do with it?

And then it occurred to me. Brownies! Apparently you can substitute applesauce for not just eggs in a recipe, but oil too. So I did, and it got me to thinking about all the other “simple food” substitutions there are out there. Because lets face it, aside from eggs, a lot of what we need substitutes for in recipes tend to be the highly specialized, processed ingredients like oil, butter, or certain flours or starches. While these things are indeed staples, they are far from simple foods – a lot of energy goes into making even the plainest bottle of olive oil, for instance. Or bag of all-purpose flour. Their ubiquity betrays their labor and energy intensive processing to get from plant to shelf. (So all things considered, a half-dozen local apples in a plastic bag is less wasteful than even bulk oil when you take processing and manufacturing into consideration.)

Anyways, enough of that. What other interesting baking substitutions are there? Well, poking around the internet, here are a few I’ve run into:

  • 1/3 c. applesauce for 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds (FRESHLY ground) in 1/4 c. warm water for 1 egg
  • 1 ripe mashed banana for 1 egg
  • equal amounts applesauce for oil called for
  • juice for oil called for
  • mashed (not refried) beans for oil called for (match bean color to the recipe!)
  • avocado for cheese or butter
  • mashed sweet potato for cheese or butter

Got any other wacky ideas, readers?

“”Be More Here””

I happened to catch this commercial for the few minutes I was watching TV recently, and aside from the obvious frustration with the whole idea of disposable plates, it reminded me of something.

A couple months ago I started listening to an old time radio show called Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, a show that ran for about a decade starting in the 1950’s. The stories are exciting, the voice talent fantastic (especially Bob Bailey’s version of Johnny), but what I didn’t expect was to get culture lessons. Yeah, sure, there are some stereotypical 1950’s things that, if you’re like me, are just funny. Remember the 50’s obsession with Latin America? There’s quite a bit of that, for instance.

I remember in one of the episodes, though, that Johnny went to a friend’s house for dinner and when they were done eating, they both did the dishes together. Washing the dishes had simply been an extension of the social space created by a shared meal, and apparently, this was normal before the wide adoption of washing machines – and the marketing that sold them. Here’s a dishwasher commercial from 1956:

It’s pretty uncommon to find a house without a dishwasher nowadays, though growing up, I never used one. Why? Because most of my family used theirs for storage! (We also stored our most-used pans and cookie sheets in the oven – idk, I’ve heard that it’s a Chicano thing. And yes, you take the stuff out of the oven and set it on the stove when you want to use it.) So at my house, and at many of my cousins’ or aunts’ and uncles’ houses, the dishes were almost always done by hand, even after a party. I haven’t generally found this to be the case at other people’s homes, but what I’ve also found about my family that doesn’t hold true for many other people is our tendency to use the dining room as the primary social space in the house. It’s usually situated between the living room and the kitchen, the two other most-used social spaces in my family, and there’s usually ample seating and space for projects, setting up a laptop computer, or whatever else is going on that afternoon. In fact, the living room is usually where the overflow from a crowded dining table winds up!

I don’t know why my family does it this way, but I think this has a lot to do with our social concept of washing dishes comes from. When the gathering place is around the table instead of the TV, you’re still close enough to the kitchen to all feel part of the same conversation instead of being separated by a wall, or distance, or psychological barriers created by furniture. Maybe this is what most Americans lost at some point around the middle of the century – the ability to think of the kitchen as an inherently social gathering place for friends and family alike, instead of a source of chores and drudgery.

The pro-cooking movement that started thanks to Food Channel celebrity chefs and has just exploded in recent years to encompass gastronomy, the DIY ethic, and agriculture itself seems to be eroding that mindset a little bit. Disposables are simply going out of fashion these days due to mainstream ecological concerns and people are looking for alternatives: mason jar cups, palm leaf plates and bamboo cutlery, cloth napkins, and so on are en vogue.

I think, though, until we can start thinking of actually doing the dishes as less of a chore and more of just an extension of the meal itself, single-use plates and utensils will continue to be appealing to too many people.

What if the “here” from the “be more here” slogan was where the food prep and cleanup is?

(Dixie is owned by the Georgia-Pacific paper company, which is owned by the Koch brothers, by the way. Ew.)

Things I’ve Given Up: Q-Tips

Yeah, yeah. Q-tips are bad for you! They compact wax in the ear canal, not remove it! You can rupture your ear drum if you’re not careful!

I’ve heard it all before. But as a lifelong q-tip user who never had any problems, the warnings just sounded like scare mongering. Besides, there’s nothing like the sensation of itching a body part that rarely gets scratched. Mmm.

The problems started happening slowly – very slowly. A few years ago I’d started getting the occasional sensation of water in my ears that I couldn’t get out, like I’d gone for a swim. And then that would occasionally be accompanied by aching, like I was getting an ear infection. But it would always resolve itself in a day or two, so I didn’t think too much of it. But in this past year, the pain would start coming without the water sensation, and it would linger for longer than a couple of days. And then sometimes it would get so bad that I wouldn’t be able to make use of earbud headphones without being in horrible pain, or lay comfortably on that side of my pillow. Still, stubborn and self-deceptive as only a human can be, I kept using q-tips, but limited my use to twice a month. After a little while of that, the pain would happen a few hours or a day after using a q-tip, and I knew I was through.

Do I miss them? Surprisingly enough, not really. Sometimes I can feel the sensation of my ear producing wax, which itches like a mofo, but usually I can just stick my finger in my ear and that will do the trick. But most of the time, I just clean the outside portion of my ear in the shower every now and then, and that’s that! No earspoons, no irrigators or fancy ointments – just a finger and some water.

So yeah, I get it now. You told me so.


San Franciscano beans from Rancho Gordo and some sauteed Swiss chard.

My stomach hasn’t been all that happy lately, what with the proliferation of gross BBQ/picnic food available practically every weekend during the summer. It seems that I can’t actually go to a party and be able to eat most of what’s served, anymore. I’m really trying to take my health problems seriously this year, but I’m being thwarted at every damn turn by friends and family alike. First of all, I’m vegetarian, so that eliminates at least half of what I can eat anywhere I go. Add to that my GI upsets and whoops, there goes just about everything else. If it’s not meat, it’s usually loaded with cheese, cream, processed fats and oils, sugar, or a mix of any of the above in the form of greasy sauces that’ll have me running to the bathroom in no time.

The carbs and sugars I’m trying to cut down because it’s terrible for my non-diabetic hypoglycemia, and the rest I have to limit because of IBS/GERD.

What this means is that I can have a couple bites of party food and… that’s about it. Yesterday (July 4th, for those whom it’s not on the radar – I wish it weren’t on mine!) I bit the bullet and brought not only my own dinner, a vegetarian sandwich, but also my own alcohol: homemade sangria without added sweetener. Yep, I’m limiting beer too. I felt like a party pooper, but it’s just something I’m going to have to suck up and get over.

So I just haven’t been feeling right lately, is what most of this is about, and so I’m trying to do something about it. Gonna try and apply KISS to my food for a while: “Keep It Simple, Stupid”!

For this I used my current favorite bean, San Franciscanos. They’re an heirloom bean from Mexico, and to die for. They’re pinto-sized, but much richer in flavor and hold their shape when cooked, which makes them great for salads. To prepare them, soak for at least 12 hours first. (This is how you avoid getting gas, and prolonged soaking also breaks down the chemicals in the bean that prevent nutrient absorption.) Then with plenty of water, bring to a boil in a pot with some onion, crushed garlic, a bay leaf, and plenty of salt, before reducing to a simmer for an hour or two until tender and the skins crack when blown on.

I served them with some sauteed Swiss chard, cooked in a little avocado and olive oils, minced garlic, and salt.

A small helping of wild rice would have been a great addition, but I don’t have any on hand. Either way, this was very filling, nutritious, and for the first time in a while, I don’t feel bloated and tired from eating!

What I’m Reading: A Friday Link Roundup

Enforcing the Law Is Inherently Violent – The Atlantic
“Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter believes that the United States would benefit if the debate about what laws ought to be passed acknowledged the violence inherent in enforcing them.”

Asymmetric accolades: Why preventing a crisis almost never makes you a hero – Resource Insights
“In our thinking we place a premium on the dramatic rescue, the last-minute escape, and the ingenious on-the-fly technical solution. They all make good copy for reporters, and they make good stories for television and movies.” But what about the people behind the scenes who work to make sure situations don’t need heroes?

Shaky Foundations for Offshore Wind Farms – Scitizen
“Offshore wind farms are far more difficult and expensive than developing on-shore wind power. If the UK is serious about providing 25% of its electricity by this means, as a form of carbon-free home-grown electricity by 2020, it will be necessary to build and install 2-3 turbines every day for the next 8 years. There are also issues of how robust this technology is under the harsh conditions that prevail out at sea. Is this a halcyon vision of green energy in a zero-carbon world or a gamble with uncertain technology in an already overstretched economy?”

Public housing residents told to tear up their gardens – Treehugger
A housing project in South Pittsburg is enforcing a ridiculous rule that says residents can’t plant or maintain their own gardens… and this is after many years of happy gardening due to non-enforcement. The reason? Some bogus appeal to “safety”. June 1st was when the mandate was due to be enacted, but there may still be time to get angry.

My four months as a private prison guard. – Mother Jones
Reporter Shane Bauer gets hired as a guard in a for-profit prison in order to find out what conditions are really like. A very long, very sobering account of what it’s like to work as a CO for The Corrections Corporation of America, and second-hand, what it’s like to be a prisoner.