Downpower archives merged into the parent blog

Downpower was a secondary blog I maintained from late 2007 to mid 2008, a “journal chronicling the attempt” to “make my life better for the world”. The attempt and the blog were both underwhelming; the latter came to seven posts, which I’ve just realized are still online (I thought I’d taken the blog down). The WordPress installation is of course way out of date, which is a big no-no, so I’ve merged the posts and comments into my main blog, tagged them, and taken the standalone version off the Web. I hate linkrot, but I haven’t learned all the redirecting magic and I doubt it’ll affect anyone anyway, so as a stopgap here is a list of the posts and their old addresses:

  • Introduction (formerly at
  • STUFF (formerly at
  • Cutting Your Car Use (formerly at
  • In The Absence Of The Sacred (formerly at
  • Doing the Laundry (formerly at
  • Walden, and the dryer update (formerly at
  • Off To A Bad Start (formerly at
  • On Hiatus (formerly at

There were also two pages of links:

(formerly at

(formerly at

And to round it all out, here’s a screenshot of how it looked:

The Downpower homepage

[Downpower] On Hiatus

I am putting Downpower on hiatus. I started it before I was really ready, because I had just redesigned my website and felt I should put everything up while I was at it. Well, that didn’t work out too well! Hopefully I will resurrect it again later; in the meantime, thanks for reading!

Update 2014-06-21: I don’t have any plans to restart this project, so I’ve merged the posts & comments into my main blog and taken down the separate Downpower blog so I don’t have to maintain its WordPress installation.

(formerly at

Off To A Bad Start

So much for keeping to my update schedule. 2008 has been pretty terrible to me so far; I kicked off the year with a nasty cold, and things went downhill from there. Anyway, I think things have pretty much stabilized, so I hope to get back on track this coming week. ‘Til then, I hope your year has been going better than mine!

Update 2014-06-21: This was originally posted to Downpower, a secondary blog I maintained briefly some years ago and have now merged into the main site.

[formerly at]

Walden, and the dryer update

Well, I missed some posting there over the holidays – but it’s a new year, so off we go!

I borrowed Walden from the library recently, and have been enjoying it, though so far the first chapter (“Economy”) is still my favorite. He presents the values of simple living most clearly there, whereas the rest of the book so far (I’m not quite halfway through) seems more just musing around. Here’s a nice quote:

“I cannot believe that our factory system is the best mode by which men may get clothing. the conditions of the operatives is becoming every day more like that of the English; and it cannot be wondered at, since, as far as I have heard or observed, the principal object is, not that mankind may be well and honestly clad, but, unquestionably, that the corporations may be enriched. In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.”

If you’d like to read some Thoreau, his complete works are online as free PDFs through the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods Digital Archive, and some of them are available in plain text at Project Gutenberg.

Dryer update: After a bit of experimentation, I seem to be able to get most of my clothing dry with 35 minutes of low heat. A few items (heavy things) may still be damp, but static electricity seems nonexistent, except for an occasional item. I’m going to try to minimize the synthetics in my wardrobe, which over time should cut down on the static in my life. I don’t think adding aluminum foil balls does anything, which I suppose makes sense since the inside of the dryer is metal, and that doesn’t dispel the static.

[formerly at]

Doing the Laundry

Recently someone told me that dryer sheets contain toxic chemicals which stick to clothing, remaining in contact with the wearer and then getting washed into the water when laundered. Our current box of sheets only lists as ingredients “softening agents (cationic type)” and “perfumes”, so I don’t know what’s in them, but here are some relevant articles at Grinning Planet, Grist, Green Living Tips, and News Target, plus the Wikipedia entry on fabric softeners.

I’ve never been a big fan of dryer sheets, but used them to control static electricity. A little googling turned up some suggested alternatives. The first one I tried was putting a ball of aluminum foil in the dryer; I tried this once (with three foil balls) and it didn’t completely eliminate the static. Two other suggestions were to leave static-prone items out of the dryer; and to dry the load incompletely, hanging it to finish. I don’t have much space so I plan to combine the two, drying the load partially, hanging the static-prone items, and finishing the rest in the dryer. Supposedly adding 1/2 to 1 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle will soften & eliminate static, but I’m holding off on that one.

Of course, it’s best to skip the dryer altogether when the weather’s warm enough. Clotheslines don’t use electricity or chemicals, don’t produce static electricity, and they make the clothes smell nice. Some neighborhood associations (the type more concerned with “property value” than community) ban clotheslines because they find them “unsightly”. What a narrow-minded, environmentally-destructive attitude! Hanging the wash is a totally homey, traditional American thing to do. Not only are these people indifferent to the Earth, but clearly they hate America.

[formerly at]

In The Absence Of The Sacred

In The Absence Of The Sacred: The Failure of Technology & the Survival of the Indian Nations by Jerry ManderSierra Club Books, 1991 – 446 pages

It’s occurred to me, as it has to many others, that if I want to live more harmoniously, I might do well to learn more about the folk who peopled this land in relative peace for thousands of years. I’d read and liked Jerry Mander’s Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television (a review for another day), but felt a little dubious when I saw In The Absence Of The Sacred. It looked like it might be some kind of misguided, backward-looking, native-romanticizing, technology-hating hippie trip, so I made a mental note and passed it by. But in light of the concern above, I wondered if the book might be more relevant than I’d realized – and it is. The two main points of the book are: 1. Our society needs to slow down and view new technologies much more skeptically, debating their potential extensively before they embed themselves in our lives, and 2. Our society could learn much of value from traditional tribal and subsistence-oriented peoples. Though I found some of the ideas in the book difficult to accept, I unfortunately also found them hard to argue with. Continue reading

Cutting Your Car Use

Cutting Your Car Use by Randall Ghent with Anna Semlyen
2006 – 5″ x 7″ – 116 pgs – US $9.95
New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada
(There was a website that went with the book which seems to be gone now –, for the original British version by Semlyen alone, is still around.)

I picked up this book in San Francisco last year. I guess I probably first realized I might ultimately want to stop owning a car when I was in college (pre-2000). I didn’t have a car there, so I walked a lot and used the campus shuttle sometimes – and it was around this time that I learned you don’t really need a car if you live in a city. Sometime in the year before my trip to San Francisco, I’d been introsuced to the concept of Peak Oil and it’s uncomfortable nearness. Mostly that just paralyzed my brain with horror; I think of this book as marking my first step toward actually doing something to live more sustainably. It’s not a mind-blowing book, and it didn’t tell me much I didn’t already know (nor did I expect it to), but it’s a nice little book, full of tips, facts, lists, testimonials, and cartoon illustrations (by Axel Scheffler). I suppose one way to go about changing your habits is to foucs on one area at a time; if you choose to focus on transportation, than this can be a handy little book (it introduced me to the concept of folding bikes, which is a whole other story). You might also have a look at the website

Another book I’ve only flipped through in the bookstore but looks pretty good is How To Live Well Without A Car by Chris Balish. It’s another small book with cartoon illustrations, but seems to have more prose than lists, which I like. Another book I haven’t read but would like to is Divorce Your Car! by Katie Alvord. in addition to practical advice on living car-free, she offers a history of how we became so car-dependent. A book that I have read which covers that history in depth in Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States by Kenneth T. Jackson.

[formerly at]


I’ve been cleaning my room for a while, and it’s still pretty bad. My goal is to be able to fit all of my possessions into this 10′ x 12′ room (it also has a 28″ x 36″ closet). I think it’s safe to say that Americans accumulate too much stuff, and though I’m not much of a consumer by that standard, I clearly have TOO MUCH STUFF. My room has been a pile, with a bed and desk embedded in it. I’ve always been a casual housekeeper, figuring if I can find things without frustration then it’s probably OK. But as my life has busied, I’ve become more negligent. This came after a few moves where I procrastinated and packed in a frenzy at the last minute, dragging boxes of disordered junk with me from place to place. Now I only work outside the house two days a week, and I’ve snapped into this mode of reorganizing and getting rid of things. At one point I recycled nearly half the contents of a 2-drawer filing cabinet (which hadn’t seen proper use in quite some time). Continue reading

[Downpower] Introduction

[Update 2014-06-21: Downpower was a secondary blog I kept briefly and have now merged into the main site.]

Welcome to my brand new blog (and eventually zine), Downpower! Here’s what it’s all about:

As the end of the brief, intense Oil Age approaches, we are in for some big changes; this journal is the chronicle of my efforts to adapt to these changes. Downpower, of course, refers to the need to use less energy – but it also refers to the need for power to be distributed evenly in small amounts rather than piled in the hands of a few. I originally conceived of this as a print zine, but started it as a blog to give myself a little more impetus to keep up with it. I’ll be writing about how I got to where I am; my current thoughts, schemes, goals, and readings; some essays & informational writing, and a journal of my actual activities and progress, peppered with drawings and comics (though there may be more of those in the print version than here online, along with some handwritten bits). I hope to be able to provide some sort of inspiration, and to show that although it may not happen all at once, change is possible. I believe that if enough of us can change in time, we can have a relatively pleasant low-energy future of bicycles, edible landscapes and local community instead of a fascistic ecocidal death-fest.

I hope you’ll join me!

[formerly at]