Cut Your Cellphone Bills Down To <$10 Month With Google Voice And A Little Ingenuity

For the past 3 years I’ve managed to keep my cellphone bill at around $8/mth and I’ve used the cellphone whenever I’ve needed it. My sister called last night lamenting at the fact she was paying $240/mth to Verizon. It’s easy to switch.

Cellphone companies will become a thing of the past...
Cellphone companies will become a thing of the past…

 

Basically what I did was to port my existing phone number to Google voice for a one time $20 fee. This guarantees that you’ll always have control over that number and no cellpone company can hold you hostage. Once your number is ported to google voice you can do whatever you want with it. I forward it to 3 different places, my landline, my pay-per use Page Plus Cellular phone and my google chat account which is linked to my Groove IP account. Google chat/groove IP gives me a wifi phone that works great whenever I’m in wifi range. I can call and receive calls anywhere in the US or Canada for free on my ancient Droid Incredible 2. The Droid I carry with me and use it only for wifi connections as it has no ability to connect to the internet otherwise.

I have a 2nd dumb phone I bought for $50 from Pagepluscellular  a Verizon service reseller. Most of their plans are around $.05 a minute and about $.05 a txt msg. This dumb phone is used to receive calls no matter when and where I am. The dumb phone is great because while the incredible needs to be charged every day the dumb flip-phone can live for about a week without charging.

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Can a piece of art really change your life?

I was asked by my good friend Dr Pamela Moss to submit my vision board that I created under her supervision  to a transformational art show. Two long years ago myself and a dozen other people spread out a bunch of old magazines on a table and after a deep soulful meditation we looked through them and ripped out any pictures that called to us. We then spent another hour cutting out the pictures and gluing them on a posterboard. That ‘vision board’ has hung in my kitchen and I’ve looked at it every day for the the last two years. I mounted color changing LED lights around it and I setup a LED spotlight above it so it could have the brightest light in the room. This simple collection of pictures pasted together from magazines that people threw in the trash has completely transformed my life.

The center of my vision board
The center of my vision board

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The Best Time You Can Have In The Woods With Your Pants Still On – My Ebiking Addiction

Travelling to China about 10 years ago I was surprised and overwhelmed by the proliferation of electric bikes. It seemed like everyone everywhere owned an ebike. Hundreds of them would be lined up inside the super markets for consumers to impulse buy a new bike while they were busy with their morning grocery shopping. They were attractive looking and cheap, but most of them ran off lead acid batteries and in general were heavy and not that powerful. I toyed with the idea of importing them to the US to try to sell them here, but once I started to research the shipping costs and the weights I realized it was pretty impractical.

Over the last 10 years batteries have gotten much, much cheaper and far more powerful. There is a new explosion of interest in electric bikes in the US as people look towards reasonable solutions to deal with the escalating costs of owning a car as well as all the time wasted stuck in city traffic. The traffic in Ithaca has gotten particularly bad on Rt 13 and often seems backed up for miles all the way to Stewart Park. The traffic and lack of parking in town was starting to drive me totally batty.

A new store opened up in town called Boxy Bikes owned by my friend Larry Clarkburg that specialized in selling ebikes. I swung by and tried out a used Giant Twist ebike he had for sale and I instantly fell in love. It was a love affair that would interfere dramatically will my sex life and anything else I would want to do for the next several months. I jokingly thanked Larry for destroying my life every time I saw him. The first time I used my electric bike in town I was amazed at how quickly I could get from one place to another. No more waiting for traffic, no more driving around looking for free parking, I could arrive right at the doorstep of the customer site and had a lot of extra time to spare. The best part was that I was no longer isolated in my car in an artificial environment that separated me from people on the street. People I knew would wave hello, I felt like part of the community instead of an outsider just driving through.

This was just the beginning, I had bought one ebike from Larry, but I started spending countless hours on the online ebike forums reading mods people had made and crazy ebikes that would use tens or hundreds of thousands of watts. An entire community of people were on the cutting edge of ebike development, and they were all doing it in their garage. I had stumbled on the golden age of ebikes and I was hooked. I would stay up till odd hours in the morning trying to learn everything I could and then I would wakeup at 5:00 AM and start in again on the forums. It became a complete and all-consuming obsession.

The 8.5 lb motor that changed my life
The 8.5 lb motor that changed my life

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The Desert Wept At Our Passing, And Is Once Again Left Alone

70,000 people came and went where none were before. A place so barren it is without insects, and yet I saw a hawk swooping through our camp at dusk.

Black Rock City. A place like no other on earth. You have either been there and know it, or you are an outsider. There is no in between.

There is no place I feel more alive, more insane, more in touch with the emptiness inside my own soul. That personal struggle to add meaning to an intrinsically meaningless life.

Giant bug puppet. Photo by Jim Laux
Giant bug puppet. Photo by Jim Laux

I didn’t want to go, but I had already bought a ticket and a plane ride, there was no turning back. Doug and I planned for months to build a giant 22 foot walking puppet bug we were going to stride across the playa with. I knew it would be a nightmare building it there, it always is. I knew the wind would make our lives miserable as we tried to cart around this giant creation. Last year I built a 43 foot tall puppet man and moved it around with 6 others on guide wires. I swore never again, but here I was building this bug in the middle of nowhere, right back at it again.

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My Computer: “Prove To Me You’re Not A Robot”

A robot by Human Emulation Robotics.

We’ve all grown frighteningly accustomed to proving to our personal computers that we are not a robot. Every time we fill out a web form or accidentally forget our webmail password a little box shows up with a series of letters and numbers that are increasingly difficult to read. As the years have flown by, the secret codes have gotten childishly easy to read to completely and utterly indecipherable. For a brief moment I often doubt myself “Is this really what this program is expecting me to type”. If I was any more unreasonable of a man I might even have lingering doubts about whether I might be a robot myself.

So how did we get to this place where people write programs to test other people to see if they are programs? Everyone knows it’s to protect us from spammers and hackers. It’s those ‘really smart computer nerds’ that are keeping those other ‘really Bad (with a capital B) computer nerds’ at bay. So we go to bed at night feelings safe. But so much of it is like watching our grandma getting felt up by TSA security at the airport. It’s all about the illusion of safety, sadly you and I are often not even protected from the people who are supposed to protect us.

Google used their Google Maps cars to drive around neighborhoods automatically logging into people’s unsecured wi-fi and collecting personal information on their computers all over the world. They were fined paltry sums by many government agencies and they apologized profusely but this was the first time something like this was done on a wide scale.  I’ve slowly moved most of my digital life into the cloud. At this point most of the virtual information I care about is stored somewhere other than my personal computer.

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Worst Idea Ever – Build a 43′ Tall Puppet, Strap It To My Back, Walk Around 60,000 People in 20 mph Winds – Burning Man 2013

My 24' high puppet built for the previous burn in 2012.  This year it was twice the size.
My 24′ high puppet built for the previous burn in 2012.
This year I built one twice as large. Photo by Dan Kaus.

In the last 2 weeks I …

– Had the bomb squad called on me in the airport

– Was attacked by lawn sprinklers while innocently sleeping outside somewhere I probably shouldn’t have,

– Got pressure washed with foam so hard it hurt while rocking out to a DJ in a plexiglass cage with 80 naked strangers

– Danced 6 hours a day in the desert for a week and ate the best food of my life every day at the Rhythm-Wave camp in Black Rock City

– Built a 43′ high bamboo puppet with scrounged materials found around BRC and walked around for 5 hours over 2 different nights with 5 people helping me

– Hiked for 3 days in Yosemite with Doug while the whole park was on fire, climbed half-dome and didn’t get eaten by bears despite smearing peanut butter all over my face and duct-taping myself to a tree

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Kayaking In The Moonlight At The Edge Of The World While The Waves Crash Against 100′ High Cliffs In Magdalen Islands Quebec.

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The Island That Sings The Sweetest Songs To My Soul.

Words cannot accurately convey the majesty and awe that the Magdalen Islands inspire.

I launched the kayak as the sun turned red on the horizon. Strapping a headlamp on I jumped into my 14′ sea kayak and tightly gripped my favorite paddle and forced my way out through the surf. The beach was tiny, only about 20 feet wide and was the only beach for miles in either direction. The swell caused the giant kayak to tip and sway more than I ever thought possible in a sea kayak. A few feet away the waves pounded the rocks and cliff face. The lighthouse shot up from the cliff. As I paddled away I felt like I had found the edge of the earth. Here the land abruptly ended and sheer sandstone cliffs that would easily give way under your feet shot up hundreds of feet into the air. There were caves everywhere that were easily carved out by the forceful action of the waves. The surging tides would trap air in the holes and they would build up pressure and blow out air, sometimes high up into the air. The noise and the surging water struck a nerve somewhere deep inside me. I plunged the paddle into the water stroke after stroke and mile melted into mile. Before I knew it the sun had disappeared and the lighthouse was miles behind me, completely gone from view.

I had to check out one of the caves before I turned around so I cautiously turned on my headlamp and started paddling into one that looked creepy. The water was rising and falling quickly and the cave went on for a long way. After several hundred yards there was no light left except the light from my headlamp with no end to the cave in sight. As the swell surged up and down little holes in the walls would blow out water, sometimes with surprising force. It was exhilarating and frightening all at the same time, I decided to slowly back paddle my way out again.

Paddling back under a full moon was totally unreal. I could see the waves crash against the rocks and the cliff face rose up hundreds of feet with the moon peaking over the top. I paddled with a furious intensity for miles until I reached the lighthouse again. I left a flashlight on my car so I could find it on the cliff face, the two red LEDs stared out at me in the water like some kind of hideous beast waiting to devour me.

Continue reading “Kayaking In The Moonlight At The Edge Of The World While The Waves Crash Against 100′ High Cliffs In Magdalen Islands Quebec.”

The Frustration And Madness That Is The Creative Process

Love
Several very frustrating hours spent behind a dozen cans of spray paint.

So much of art is people wandering across something that you have created and saying to themselves or out loud if they are bold

“Wow that is pretty cool”

When they see something that is generated they don’t often even think about the work that went into creating it. There are those that call the state of creation the ‘flow’ state. So often when I move into that space-time seems to fly by and the outside world often shrinks away. Most of the time when I try to create something I start without much of a notion of where I will end up. Every time I take a step back and look at when I’ve painted or written I end up thinking to myself.

“Oh my god, this sucks so bad”

Almost all the art I created in the first 30 years of life I have destroyed because I honestly can’t stand to look at it. I keep throwing my heart at whatever I am doing again and again until I can start to tolerate my own creation.

But I never feel love. I never look at something I’ve created and say to myself

“Wow, that is pretty cool, I am so talented”

Even when complete strangers come out of nowhere and tell me that whatever I have made is the coolest thing they have ever seen I still only look at my creations and think…

‘It could be so much better’

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My 40th Trip Around The Sun From That Fateful Day I Was Forced To Leave My Mama’s Womb

Turning 41.

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When I turned 40 I still felt fantastic, my life was not perfect, but I felt like I could deal pretty well. My life had been really good, for a long time.  Sometimes it felt too good to be true, like I was trapped in a fairy tale. I had so much to be thankful for, so much gratitude every day for the good things in my life.

Then everything crumbled. I felt like I was watching 9/11 unfold in my own life, watching those buildings fall down again and again on every channel. Over the years I had known tragedy and calamity but also moments of great joy and ecstasy. My life had become just too good, like a junkie running dry it was all going to end.

My mind started to slip, I became unraveled. In the darkest depths of the darkest moments of my life I never imagined that I could feel so low. It didn’t let up. Everything important that I cared about just slipped away.

My work, my relationship with my son and his mother, my friends, my passion for life. A darkness descended upon my soul the likes of which I never imagined I would have to endure. Yet somehow I made it through. Months went by and every day was a struggle, my sadness became the strangest puzzle I had ever tried to solve.

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