Tabletop biosphere project: free instructions and an update
February 20, 2008, 8:32 am by bottleman. Filed under: closed ecological systems, magazine watch.

Last year MAKE magazine published a tutorial I wrote about how to make a closed ecological system in a sealed bottle. It was a significant improvement on the earlier attempts I had made. My new system could reliably sustain Amano shrimp for 3 months or more, and snails indefinitely.

photo by the author, hosted by flickr

“The TSSM (Tabletop Shrimp Support Module) is a fun demonstration of the ecological cycles that keep us all alive, and an enticement to muse on everything from Godhood to space colonization,” I wrote in the teaser, and hey, I believe that more than ever now. Everybody should do this project.

Now MAKE’s a pricey mag — well worth it of course — but nonetheless it was nice to see the editors release my article to the public as a free PDF. In the months since the MAKE piece I’ve …more

The Nu Austerity (or, the filthy rich vs. the cleanly so)
September 4, 2006, 6:01 am by bottleman. Filed under: magazine watch, simple living.

Welcome to the “Nu Austerity“!

That’s the buzzword one marketer/designer came up with to summarize the apparent trend of people intentionally living simpler lives, more focused on the quality of experience than the quantity of goods they consume. If it’s real, it’d certainly be good news for the environment. But is it real, or is it just another accessory to buy and throw away?

pictures from mags and real estate ads

This simpler lifestyle’s been linked with a resurgence of interest in “clean” “elegant” modern design like the stuff you see in the design porn above [click pic to enlarge] — something that affects me since I’m remodeling a house. The industry, in the form of mags from Dwell to Cottage Living, is pushing a dream house based on a fantasy of a simple life. Is it really different than the other dream houses for other fantasy lives?

Honkin’ huge, part II: a modest 5337 sq. ft. cottage
April 30, 2006, 10:38 pm by bottleman. Filed under: magazine watch, monster houses.

It was a moody lunch. I sat at the table, unshaven and thick-headed. Not even a racy drop of Tabasco could liven up the taste of my tomato soup.

The numbers were pretty strong. It seemed likely that America’s oversized new houses were a near match for America’s bulked-up, overpowered new cars. McMansions were environmental villains just like SUVs.

And yet, most greens really hadn’t caught on to McMansions beyond complaining about their aesthetics. Where was the outrage? Where was the wash of counter-propaganda to compete with the bombast of promotions like the street of dreams?

Photo by Flickr member Oneras - thank you