Bozos in Space

Many thanks to the Root Simple readers who left comments on my post about my ambivalence on selling things through Amazon on this blog. One reader suggested IndieBound’s affiliate program and I just signed up for an account. Another reader noted Amazon’s convenience for folks who live in rural places, something that reminded me of how out of touch I am with life outside of big cities.

The Atlantic has a long profile of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos written by Franklin Foer that’s well worth reading. It has a number of Bezos factoids that caress all the keys of my trigger piano all at once. If you’d like to get me a-ranting just mention your idea that our future is in orbiting space colonies and that you pal around with Holllywood industry critters. Then there’s this:

At the heart of Amazon’s growing relationship with government is a choking irony. Last year, Amazon didn’t pay a cent of federal tax. The company has mastered the art of avoidance, by exploiting foreign tax havens and moonwalking through the seemingly infinite loopholes that accountants dream up. Amazon may not contribute to the national coffers, but public funds pour into its own bank accounts. Amazon has grown enormous, in part, by shirking tax responsibility. The government rewards this failure with massive contracts, which will make the company even bigger.

But, as the article points out, all of us Amazon Prime members pay a sort of tax every year. It turns out that tax may not make sense from a home economics standpoint:

When Amazon first created Prime, in 2005, Bezos insisted that the price be set high enough that the program felt like a genuine commitment. Consumers would then set out to redeem this sizable outlay by faithfully consuming through Amazon. One hundred million Prime subscribers later, this turned out to be a masterstroke of behavioral economics. Prime members in the U.S. spend $1,400 a year on Amazon purchases, compared with $600 by nonmembers, according to a survey by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. It found that 93 percent of Prime customers keep their subscription after the first year; 98 percent keep it after the second. Through Prime, Bezos provided himself a deep pool of cash: When subscriptions auto-renew each year, the company instantly has billions in its pockets. Bezos has turned his site into an almost unthinking habit. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Jack Ryan are essential tools for patterning your existence.

In addition to my problems with all the affiliate links embedded on the 3,345 posts on this blog I’m also left to ponder an alternative to our Ring doorbell that I bought before the company was owned by Amazon. I don’t like that Jeff is watching my front porch and turning over the data to the Man. I miss what the Bezos doorbell gadget replaced.

136 Garden Fundamentals with Robert Pavlis

On this 136th episode of the Root Simple podcast we talk to author and gardening expert Robert Pavlis about how to improve your soil, how to start seedlings in the winter, how to take care of houseplants and much more.

Robert Pavlis lives on 6 acres of land that he has developed into a large private garden he calls Aspen Grove Gardens that contains around 3,000 perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees in southern Ontario, Canada. He is a Master Gardener, speaker and author on gardening subjects with a background in chemistry and biochemistry. Normally I go over questions with guests before we begin but Robert and I just started talking so we’ll join the conversation mid-stream as Robert is telling me about his upcoming book Soil Science for Gardeners. During the podcast we talk about:

  • Soil science for home gardeners
  • The problems with soil tests
  • Soil prep for native plants
  • Fungi inoculation products
  • How to open up compacted soil
  • Sources for organic material
  • Ugh, landscape fabric
  • Cardboard in the garden
  • Hügelkultur
  • Winter sowing
  • Baggie technique
  • LED lights
  • How to water houseplants

You can find Robert at: GardenFundamentals.com, GardenMyths.com on YouTube and via the Garden Fundamentals Facebook Group.

Also–subscribe to Bike Talk!

If you’d like to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected] You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. Closing theme music by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

Saturday Linkages: Squirrels, Sharks and Nudists

Edward Burne-Jones – An Angel Playing a Flageolet.

How the all-hands meeting became a way for bosses to give you the finger

Use it and abuse it

Safe Streets Advocates Stage Die-In to Protest Garcetti and City Council Lack of Vision Zero Progress

Oil is the New Data

Against We

The Squirrels Already Know This: Southern California black walnuts are a local, tasty treasure

Purists v partiers: the battle between two popular nudist resorts

Shark Bites Google Fiber Optic Cables Undersea

Ammo can power supply

Building a Soil Sifter / Rotary Trommel

I’m Fed Up With Amazon

News of Amazon’s atrocious labor practices, creepy surveillance deals, and Jeff Bezos’s idiotic techno-utopian space fantasies means that I can no longer use their affiliate program on this blog. For the time being I’ve stopped adding new links to Amazon products.

For years Amazon provided an ever decreasing affiliate income that, partly, pays the hosting bills for this blog and podcast. I’ve written about my ambivalence about Amazon before back in 2015 and many of you said, at the time, that you didn’t mind. I suspect, in the years since, many of you may have changed your mind about this company. I know I have.

Practically speaking, there is so much dubious, bootlegged content on Amazon’s website that I don’t trust it for purchases anymore. If I need something I will try to buy it directly from a company or a specialty retailer. Most of my books come from the library. When I do buy a book I should probably order it through my local bookstore Skylight (which has always been very generous to Kelly and I as authors–placing our books prominently and hosting a book launch event for us).

Right now I’m left with a problem. I’ve got hundreds of Amazon links embedded on this site and need to ponder what I’m going to do about that. When Amazon dumped California-based affiliates a few years ago rather than pay their taxes I switched to Portland-based Powell’s partner program but nobody used it. I’ve also got a Patreon program and, while thankful for those of you who chip in, I think I’d rather sell a physical object (like a zine) rather than beg for donations.

So I’ve got a lot to think about and I’m interested in your feedback. Do you use Amazon? What do you use it for? Do you mind affiliate links?

Starbucks Moderne

Capitalism, despite the hollow claims of “efficiency” of its zealous devotees, has a tendency to create a crap ton of useless and/or ugly objects. Unless you’re cursed with some sort of art background you’ll likely spend your days in blissful ignorance of the details of these objects. But if you’re burdened with a few aesthetic bones in your body, you just can’t stop looking at them. Take, for instance, this forgettable paper coffee cup that Kelly noticed.

Our ancestors would have poured their beverages in a reusable ceramic, metal or wood mug. Some of them might have downed their mead in a blinged out drinking horn. Before that they would have just cupped their hands at the stream. For a moment, let’s let go of the obvious problem of the “externalities” caused by sending this single use object to a landfill and take a close look at the aesthetics of this paper coffee cup.

The style and color pallet is what I call “Starbucks Moderne.” Consider it the committee-driven, focus group vetted, corporate response to the Portlandia “Bad Art Good Walls” routine. You’ll find Starbucks Moderne in the thousands of soulless hotels, “upscale” hospital waiting rooms and bank lobbies that scar our degraded architectural landscape. You’re not supposed to pay attention to Starbucks Moderne but, instead, feel like a mini-Jeff Bezos, subliminally enveloped in a muted pseudo-luxury color palette.

But what’s up with that face? Was the artist not paid enough to bother drawing a face? Is this a stab at corporate cubism? Or is this a mask? Is this a self-portrait of the artist who portrayed themselves wearing a mask as a kind of plea for help or a way of saying, “don’t blame me for this ugly thing?” Kelly actually started drawing a copy of this masked figure in order to understand it but couldn’t figure out what it was about.

The 1990s era curly chair in the background means that this hapless artist is probably of my, largely forgotten and ignored, Generation X. We’re the last generation that can remember a time of lounging in curlycued, overstuffed post-modern furniture, a time before the gig-slave economy. Now we’re hunched over in misery contemplating eking by on Fiverr and Mechanical Turk while the fat-cat masked billionaires enjoy slices of pie and a cup of coffee on the way to their Eyes Wide Shut parties.

Further evidence of the age of the artist or, more likely, that the coffee cup company hasn’t updated its art in 30 years is that there’s a be-crowned figure reading a physical newspaper instead of gigging on Fiverr for pennies an hour on a phone or laptop.

Keep turning the cup and you’ll find more bargain-basement cubism, masked, hegemonic figures and another slice of pie.

Methinks things would change if we prioritized the arts in our schools and people woke up to the sheer horror and ugliness that surround us. That day may yet come. Perhaps the revolution will be led by our blessed ceramics teachers . . .