Someone on Diaspora asked me: if I only use recorded sounds once, how does this effect sustainability of my music?
This is an interesting question! While the sounds themselves are not recycled, this actually does effect my disk space usage. Once a piece is done, its done and I don’t need the source sounds any more, so I have no need to keep them around. This means that at the end of creating a minute of noise, I have, usually, an uncompressed file and a compressed Mp3 (plus whatever file format the commissioner wants for themselves). A minute of AIFF or WAV runs up to 11 MB and the MP3 is around 1MB, so this really takes up very little hard drive space. (Indeed, the Mp3 could fit on a floppy disk!!)

There are other concerns in sustainability however, one of the most important is e-waste. Every time you get rid of an old computer, it needs to be disposed of without causing pollution. This makes disposal a challenge. Indeed, getting a new laptop involves a fair amount of pollution and may also include conflict minerals. I’d say upgrading hardware is a greater sustainability issue than hard drive space might be. How does this interact with my music?

  • Digital Music – This has the greatest potential for e-waste, however, my laptop is already 4 years old and I have no plans to upgrade it, because it is fast enough to do what I want. I write my own programs in SuperCollider to digital audio. When I started doing this, more than a decade ago, I had to be smart about efficiency, so I could get everything to run in real time without maxing out my processor. I really have never run into this issue at all with my current laptop – I feel like the upgrade cycle is now more driven by graphics. I run Ubuntu Studio, which also specifically supports older laptops. Should this laptop die, I would probably get a used one. Indeed, I’d look for the very same one I have now.
  • Acoustic – I mentioned using sounds from all kinds of various locations as possibilities in acoustic pieces. However, these were gathered while I was already in the area. I try to avoid flying as much as possible. Since I don’t re-use sounds, putting together an acoustic piece frees up space on my hard drive.
  • Analogue – when I bought my synthesiser, 15 years ago, I also bought a computer at the same time. I still use the synthesiser all the time. Analogue hardware doesn’t go obsolete and doesn’t require upgrading. When I get new modules, it’s to add new functionality, not to replace what I’ve already got. For people who want to make electronic music, analogue gear has a higher upfront cost, but outlasts digital. I expect my synth is less than halfway through it’s usable life. Planned obsolescence and the e-waste created by that is just not an issue.

Commissions are ecologically friendly and make great gifts! Digital-download-only commissions are a perfect gift for for Green friends and family who want to avoid clutter. Delivery is guaranteed in time for Hanukkah or Christmas. Order now! The introductory price of £5 will only last until Thursday.

Do you love noise music? Do you have fashion? Drop me an email if you’d like your image to be in forthcoming posts about noise and fashion

Resolution Interview: Temporary Vegan

A resolution is basically an attempt to change one’s own behaviour. Often these are made for reasons of self-improvement (ie, “I will go to the gym at least 3 times a week from now on.”) but sometimes they are made with a more communal goals. The impact of these is greater if more people participate. I sent out some questions to people I’ve known that have tried to do world-improving resolutions. First up is Sarah, who went vegan for a month over the summer.
I got email from her then, explaining what she was doing and asking if people wanted to go along and do it too. I wondered what had become of the project. This is what she told me.

I originally started the Vegan-for-a-month project to try and get my close friends and family members to eat less beef. Beef consumption is a major cause of global warming and of rainforest destruction and if we want to do anything about either of these problems we actually all have to decide to stop eating beef entirely. I also wanted to see what kind of response I would get just based on peer pressure.

The response was overwhelming! I sent the original request out to several hundred people and I got about 50 responses back indicating that my friends and family were in support of my decision. One person wrote that he and his girlfriend ordered the organic veggie box from a local CSA, one person agreed to give up cheese, and another didn’t eat beef the whole month! Best of all, my boss brought me a vegan chocolate bar.

All in all, I think about 50 people participated, but I never did a follow up to find out what they did.

It started to fail near the end of the month for several reasons. I went to a formal dinner and was served items containing dairy. Additionally, I gained a ton of weight. Some people have naturally high metabolisms, but I metabolize protein differently and in order to get enough protein I had to ingest a quantity of beans and rice that also provided me with too many carbs. I am familiar with vegan cooking, and I eat vegan most of the time, but I cannot figure out how not to become protein deficient without ingesting small amounts of non-fat dairy from time to time. I love tofu, ate a whole bunch of it, but it also causes me to gain weight. Additional exercise only makes the problem worse because then I need more protein.

I consulted several vegans before I started and most were very unhelpful and told me things that I already knew. I think people’s bodies react differently to changes in diet.

I learned that being vegan is really hard to maintain in social situations. You are very limited to what you can eat if you go out which means cooking all the time and if you go out to someone’s house you can’t eat most of what they serve. They become offended easily. I hated going to a birthday party and telling the host that I didn’t want any of their birthday cake. It made me feel bad. I think veganism can work very well for people who are not as social or don’t have as eclectic of a group of friends as I do. I also travel too much to be vegetarian let alone vegan.

I also missed cheese a lot. I have now mostly cut cheese out of my diet, but every once in a while I really like to have some. I also just can’t get used to coffee without a tiny splash of real milk in it.

I don’t think I would try it again based on the way that my body reacted. I’m still trying to loose some of the weight I gained. I try to eat mostly vegan, and when I cook for myself I almost always eat vegan, but when friends come over or I go out, vegetarian is just fine and please pass the birthday cake thank you very much.

I think I accomplished my goals. My main goal was to get other people to think about their beef consumption. I’m going to continue to do this via other means such as publishing pictures I took in Peru of cattle eating rainforests.

I have asked her to send a picture of a cow in a rainforest! And I’ll post it when it comes up.
Incidentally, Sarah is the second person I’ve spoken to recently who had health problems with doing a vegetarian or vegan diet. It works for me, but everybody is different. Multivitamins seem to help. If you’re vegan, also, you need to take B vitamins, or else eat loads of marmite. But if you can’t manage to be a vegetarian, you can still get local, organic, free range meat and eat it in moderation.

Re-use / Re-cycle

Re – use and re- cycling are not free. I re – user beer bottles and put more beer in them. This process uses a lot of hot water and can also involve bleach or iodine. Yet, it still seems to be more energy efficient than buying new bottles every time. Also, although glass is infinitely recyclable, it must be melted down and otherwise use a lot of energy every time. Noone suggests that we should just give up recycling and use new materials for glass and paper every time to to save energy. No one suggests that we give up on re-usable, re-cyclable glass to use plastic bottles and thorw them into landfills when we’re done with them.
Why, then, do some folks alledge that disposable diapers are better than washable? Babies using disposable diapers send one ton of waste to the landfill every year. This goes in a santiary landfill (unlike construction waste, which there is more of every year, but it can be dumped more haphazardly). True, it takes energy and water to wash diapers, but it also takes energy, water and petroleum and lots of space to use disposable diapers. Perhaps it would be better to think of washable diapers as recyclable diapers. Nobody suggests we should use virgin paper pulp instead of recycling paper (since recycling takes energy and water), so think of diapers the same way.
Some folks add the energy needed to transport diapers to and from a diaper service. As if disposables floated home under their own power and then floated on, similarly, to the landfill. Some folkd point ot the existence of “biodegradable” diapers. Papaer also biodegrades, btw, but we still recycle. But paper does not biodegrade in a santiary landfill. Nothing biodegrades in a sanitary landfill. It makes a lousy compost heap. And even if it did biodegrade, so what? You can take the output of your composting toilet and spread it around your rose garden, but you can’t do the same with landfill stuff, since it’s full of all sorts of pollutants. throwing something into a landfill is throwing it away and any usefulness and value it might have had away for the next several generations, perhaps forever. Biodegradable diapers would stills end one ton of waste to a landfill.
Oxygen bleach kills germs. If you soak something in oxygen bleach, it keels germs just like chlorine bleach, but unlike the latter, it “biodegrades” into oxygen and water, because oxygen bleach is just hydrogem peroxide. Therefore, you have a method of killing diaper germs that is not polluting. I just thought I’d share..

The Problems of Urban Composting

Permit me, dear reader, (if I have any), to think aloud for a moment about composting in the city. There are some problems specific to urban composters that suburban dwellers and country folk don’t have. One of these is a space limitation. Also, urban people are less likely to have gardenning tools such as pictforks or shovels. Your city resident may only have a containrer garden (if that) and no actual plot of dirt to call her own. Also, urban dwellers are more likely to have a ready supply of “wet” matter (also known as “green”) than “dry” matter (also known as “brown”). In short, the urban composter may be an apartment dweller with a small deck, no dirt lot or shovel who only has food wastes to compost.
What the is the ultimate compost bin for such a person? First of all, any compost bin on earth must be free of toxic stuff that will leach into the dirt that’s being made. This seems to rule out bins made of pressure treated lumber and some plastics, like PVC. Any bin that contains food wastes, even just carrot tops, must be rodent-proof. An ideal apartment bin would additionally be space efficient and not require a shovel of any kind. The ideal solution seems to then be worm composting. You can feed your worms all sorts of food wastes including cooked foods, afaik, and I’ve heard of some self-straining models, where removing the compost from the worms involves no more than pulling two pieces apart. Instant dirt. Takes up as little space as you want ti to. the worms are even edible. There are a few (as in one or two) cookbooks for how to eat your worms, should you get to be very hungry or decide you have an excess population. What criteria you would use for that, I don’t know.
However, worms die. Lazy people continually have to go get new worms because they dry out or go hungry for a while. I guess you could eat half of your worms before going on vacation, but that seems like an intense dedication to composting would be required. Also, all of the worm bins I’ve seen have been made of PVC. So then, what would be an ideal solution for a lazy apartment dwelling composter who doesn’t want to eat worms before travelling?
Since both space and brown matter are at a permium, the apartment bin should contain some form of brown material storge. Perhaps a hopper could be positioned over the main part of the bin so that brown matter, such as peat could be stored in there and then released into the bin via a lever or something. Also, an ideal bin would have a turning over mechanism built in. I have a PVC bin that’s round and on rollers, so that it can be turned over just by rolling it around. It’s efficient for space usage and requires no tools, although the plastic is a problem. Using a shovel to turn compost seems to have the side effect of breaking up big pieces of things. Periodically, a grapefruit will sit too long uneaten and be sent whole to the composter. Right now, this has a tendency to attract fruit flies, since the grapefruit does not get broken into little pieces. This design also is a bit hopper unfriendly, since the bin openeing and the hopper would need to be lined up before peat could be added.
Compost bins also need to sit a while before dirt can be removed. It’s necessary to have two or three bins, so one can be aging while material is being added to another. So the ideal bin would spin, would have some sort of brown matter storage, would break up big pieces of things, would, perhaps, store aging compost in addition to “active” compost (which is being added to daily) and would take up very little space. Additionally, it would be created out of non-harmful materials that ideally are somehow recycled, recyclable or both.
Ok, so this had me thinking. What if the brown matter was somehow built into the bin. I began picturing a bin made somewhat out of metal, but also out of the kind of compressed peat used for some pots. Then a hopper is no longer needed. So what you have is a big metal box, in which there is a round holder of aging compost. There is an identical round holder above this to hold active compost. It’s basically a wire frame with strong pegs sticking out the ends, at the center point, so it can rotate. The frame is light, since it’s designed to hold a heavy peat composting container. This container keeps out rodents and provides brown matter. The frame has some long spikes that stick inwards. These are designed to piece the peat. They have a dual function of holding the peat in place and breaking up large objects like whole grade fruit. The frame can split open to completely empty it and to load in a new peat frame. It also has a door on it, which must line up to a door punched in the peat, so that the uer can add new vegetables. Both the top bin and the bottom bin should be spun periodically. The bottom bin is in a box (with no top), to catch the dirt that falls out as the peat completely degrades along with the compost. The whole thing, including the bottom box, the two round frames and the mount above the box (which holds up the top round frame) is made of recycled steel. Except, of course, for the peat pieces.
Maybe it’s too big. It’s probably too expensive. buying new material every go-round may put-off some users. I’d write more about this endlessly facinating topic, but I must go do something about the dern fruitflies getting into the house again.

I just voted a straight green party ticket (except for Barbara Lee. Yay
Barbara Lee!) and I get to come home not feeling like I’ve compromised my
values. And my vote isn’t thrown away, cuz I wouldn’t have voted otherwie
(except for Barbara Lee. Yay Barbara Lee!)

Anyway, I know that some of y’all live in the Bay Area section of
California so I thought I’d mention my wifey’s voting guide now that it’s
too late and you’ve already voted.

For that long list of judges to vote yes or no on, she actually went and
read their opinions. she does more research than anyone. her political
bent is such that, although she votes green, she won’t register green
because “they’re too conservative.”

And I’d like to take a moment to brag that Barbara Lee went to Mills
College, a very small women’s liberal arts college in Oakland that I also
went to, but not at the same time as her. Mills alums are going to take
over the world, but slowly, since there’s not that many of us.