Pioneering the Electric Highway

For the past several months, Thia Konig has been treating us to a wonderful journal of her photography titled Pioneering the Electric Highway.  It documents her adventures with Ben Woodard as they go where no electric vehicles have gone before.  And in so doing, they became pioneers of the electric highway–at least on the West Coast.  This “road trip of a lifetime” (as Thia described it) called for a spirit of adventure, a willingness to venture into the unknown.  And what made it work was their winning ways of finding power in the community, literally.

According to the US Department of Energy, there are just over 6,200 electric vehicle charging stations in the US today.  Using their handy-dandy locator, I found there are 3 within a 15 mile radius of Manifold Recording, including one less than 3 miles away, at Central Carolina Community College.  But if you were in Bandera, Texas (just outside San Antonio) and wanted to drive to Socorro (just outside of El Paso), there are presently zero stations along that 501 mile route.  That’s an adventure!  And the only way to do it is to make friends along the way.  Thia and Ben’s journey was like that…The Love Bug meets the 21st Century.

Inspired by their pioneering drive, we have decided to make Manifold Recording a friendly place for clients with electric vehicles.  First, we installed several 20A circuits of 120V shore power convenient to our parking areas.  Though these only deliver enough current to charge at a rate of 4-5 miles per hour, that adds 30-50 miles of range during a typical 8-10 hour session, more than enough to get home at the end of the day.  But we wanted to do more, so we installed a weatherproof NEMA 14-50 outlet in front of the garage.  Charging 6x faster than using a typical household circuit, it can top off a Tesla with 30 miles of charge during a one hour business meeting.  It can deliver 60 miles of charge during a two hour film screening and review.  That’s friendly!

It’s also climate-friendly: every electron delivered via these outlets is fully offset by electrons generated by our 92kWh Solar Double-Cropping system.

So if you have a high-end music, video or film project to do, and a spirit of adventure, bring them to Manifold Recording and let’s work together!

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Speech text from Miraverse Power & Light Solar Double-Cropping Ribbon-cutting

North Carolina is a great place to grow.  Our family moved here when the growing company I started in Silicon Valley back in 1989 was bought by a faster-growing company here in North Carolina, Red Hat.  North Carolina is home to a great community of innovators, and today we are proud to stand with many of them as we unveil what has truly been a community effort.

When I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma in 2006, I realized that the question “what should we eat for dinner?” had life-changing implications.  We are what we eat.  But as a society, we also decide what we grow, how we grow it, how it comes to market, and at what price.  In 1903, commercial seed houses offered 288 varieties of beets; by 1983 the choice is down to 17.  From 544 types of cabbage, we’re down to 28.  From 307 types of sweet corn, we’re down to 12.  Our dinner-time choices are a function of many choices made before we were even born.  The Omnivore’s Dilemma teaches that when the question “what can we do?” becomes too limiting, the question of what should we do becomes all the more urgent.  And not just when it comes to food.

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The conservative (and generous) economics of Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry has become one of my heroes.  His writings and ideas are among the most penetrating I have encountered in any living author, and he has a wonderful and luminous presence.  He was featured on the Diane Rehm show earlier this year, and that conversation was selected for re-broadcast on New Year’s Eve, a fitting editorial choice about what we Americans should be thinking about as we compost the years 2000-2009 and decide what seeds we will plant in the coming decade (with what little fertile soil is left).

As I was driving around town and thinking about the extraordinary costs going into both the construction of Manifold Recording (not to mention the equipment budget), I was struck by these comments (at 17:16 into the one hour program):

Useful criticism always begins with an appropriate standard.  And consumerism—the flourishing of consumerism—is not an adequate standard, just as economic feasibility is not an adequate standard for human behavior.


What might this mean?

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Construction photos: weeks 19-32

My last construction blog post was week 18, and you might think that since we’re now up to week 32, we’ve come twice as far as when you last checked in.  Sadly, no.  All construction projects (I am told) suffer at least one inconceivably long and complicated delay, and that’s been the story this whole summer.  But there has been some concrete progress (literally), and so I figured I should share the latest photos.

First, to give you some idea of how long the delay has been consider these before and after shots…

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small is possible: reconstructing local music

small is possible book coverI just read Lyle Estill’s manifesto small is possible, an account of how he and others in Pittsboro, North Carolina (population 2,500) discovered how to feed, fuel, heal, and govern itself as a community.

First off, the writing is simply first-rate. Lyle writes with humor, but also with a very keen eye to the forces and effects that operate on multiple levels. But unlike Alexis de Tocqueville or Michael Pollan or Malcolm Gladwell, he is not merely an observer, but a passionate actor as well. And because Lyle practices the teaching “be the change you want to see in the world,” he has learned to farm, write software, weld steel, wire buildings, extend credit, teach classes, pull permits, and make peace with hunters.

Not all these many careers have been successful: he tried and failed yoga. And he tells this story of how, at the peak of the Internet Boom, he had the opportunity to Make It Big and utterly failed to comprehend the potential, as he explains:

“When Scott came to me to explain the future, I yawned. We would sit around after hours with core employees and argue about the coming of the net.

One night, our sales manager, Skip, said “Travel. Let’s take travel. How do you buy your tickets right now?”

I thought of Lisa, the preacher’s wife turned travel agent, who matched up the itineraries of Tami and Lyle [who would later marry] like a marriage counselor scheduling appointments, and I answered Skip’s question honestly:

“The other night I came out of my bathroom and found my travel agent at the kitchen table cutting up a lime on the cutting board. She had let herself in, and had brought over a ox of Corona beer.

“I sat down, grabbed a beer, and she told me that tonight we were going to get clear on whether or not Tami and I were going to Belize or Jordan. Tami came home late from work, grabbed a beer and settled into the conversation.

“Are you telling me that one day I will replace that with a computer screen?”

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The rest is noise…

The Rest is Noise (cover)

I read a fair number of books, though not nearly as many as Amy. And many times when I discuss these books with others, they say “can you send me your reading list?” Well, I’m going to start a new category on this blog, which is books and it will be used whenever I reference a book that’s relevant in some way to the experiment that is this studio project.

I visited our local bookstore this morning (talk about a business that’s almost as bad as the studio business) and saw The Rest Is Noise and had to pick it up. First, because the topic “listening to the twentieth century” is of great interest to me. Second, because the cover art is fantastic, and third because the inside jacket cover presented to me the very insight that has inspired me to create The Miraverse inside of Manifold Recording. Namely, while paintings by Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollack sell for hundreds of millions of dollars, the equally influential music of the twentieth century struggles against the presumption that music is a dying art.

I have not yet read page one of the book, but here is what I’ll be attending to: I believe that we are presently (in 2008) discovering that consumerism is the true dead end. Not only does it kill the authentic self, but it’s destroying the earth as a habitat for humans as well. The fixed media form of art is particularly conducive to high valuation because it is unique and excludable. The diffusive form of music, which must be shared to be experienced, and which notably does not exist except when performed, presents a much greater challenge. All sorts of changes in copyright laws and other statutes to make music more like a painting have largely failed to create the ever-appreciating values we have seen in the world of paintings.

I believe that the problem with music as an industry is that we’ve tried to make it too much like a fixed medium, and records and CDs have only made this confusion the mainstream assumption. We need to return to music as a performance art, and we need to recognize the value and authenticity of experience. What is it worth to hear the greatest players playing the greatest music in the greatest halls or rooms? No, I’m not talking about Billy Joel and Sir Elton John playing piano at 125dB in a hockey rink. I’m talking about environments that fulfill music’s highest technical and artistic aspirations. This was the explicit goal of the design of the Music Room. (And to make it sustainable, we made it a carbon neutral recording studio.

I look forward to seeing how Ross’s narrative validates or challenges my own. Perhaps he’ll find an excuse to come to Pittsboro NC and hear for himself what a 21st century environment does for twentieth century music.

Construction photos: week 5 (grayblock below grade)

More than a dozen pallets of greyblock are now positioned on the site to be placed on the footings and create the basin into which the concrete slab will be poured.

Pallets of grayblock

You can tell how far up the grayblock needs to go: the wood framing on the far side of the site shows where the finished floor elevation will be. We’ll use architectural block for the course that brings us to that level (and then to where people can see it), but grayblock all the way down. As you can see, there’s quite a number of courses to reach that point, which looks like “up” right now, but will seem “down” when the slab is poured and ultimately the dirt, which is also in the background, is replaced. Here you can see how “high” (or “deep”) we’ll be going:

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Philly Through My Ear

The things I learn by talking with just a few people who know a lot!

I just learned about Philly Through My Ear, a creative, collaborative effort to bring together great jazz musicians, honor them, pay them, record what is still <em>great</em> music, and then give them a lottery ticket in the form of a CD that they are free to sell whereever and hoever they wish. Why, that sounds just like the fair share model I’m trying to promote in The Miraverse!

According to the wealth survey of the Wall Street Journal, there are now more than 10,000,000 millionaires in the world and 3.2 million living in the US alone. Why are they spending so much on mere stuff that’s polluting the environment and not much on transcendent experiences that can be made in carbon-neutral ways? I don’t know, but I do know that Will Smith Sr. (father of Will Smith Jr.) has his priorities in order, and his generosity expands far beyond just the support of his favorite living artists: it actually enriches the arts.

So a shout out to Will Smith Sr., and an invitation to those who are trying to decide how they might allocate their assets between things (that need space) and experiences (which can be carried always). And a prayer that my favorite living artists will have the creative and legal freedoms to create more musical descendents to fill us all their their genius.

Starting a carbon neutral conversation

Yesterday I was thrilled to discover that Manifold Recording was the #1 Google result for the search term “carbon neutral recording studio“. I know that such a goal (achieving carbon neutrality, not the Google ranking) is a challenging one, and thus it makes sense to test the assumptions, even this early in its construction.

This morning I heard Alice Lloyd, Executive Director of North Carolina Interfaith Power & Light speak out against Duke Power’s plan to expand the Cliffside power plant with an additional 800MW of coal-fired capacity. As reported by the News and Observer (and contradictory to statements made in their “clean coal” coalition statements), the only way to bring this plant on line is to bend already broken rules related to mercury pollution, and to continue to ignore the enormous impact of adding more CO2 to the atmosphere, further exacerbating global warming. The statistics are alarming:

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