Howard Agnew

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Howard V. Agnew

Team Culturing Information

WHO are you?

WHY are you motivated to support/develop this work?

  • Do you endorse open source culture?

I feel technology should be making the lives of everyone easier, but the current situation seems to be "have vs. have-nots." I don't think opulent luxury should be outright abolished, ugly as I find it, but I find it appalling that so few have so much while millions of others starve, and even outside the outright famines-through-greed in Africa, even within the United States there is much "have vs. have-nots" mentality. 'The economy' is a hot topic, but whom is really affected by the abysmal economic indicators? A lot of poor people. Who isn't? The executives who hold all the cards ... they already have the vast majority of the wealth concentrated in a tiny minority, they use their means to keep from providing a basic social safety net in the U.S., leaving increasing millions homeless and without the means to adequately take care of themselves.

It seems to me that while there was ugliness of tyranny and slavery in the past that I am glad we are slowly stumbling away from (but still have a ways to go), in the past people and families were more able to take care of themselves but are now dependent on pleading with someone of wealth to rent their bodies for many of their waking hours. Specialization and working for a living doesn't sound like such a bad idea, but in practice its becoming increasingly bad for the masses; a person working full time has decreasing chances of being able to make basic ends meet. Slick advertising sells overpriced things like vehicles with slick (and by slick, I mean sly) 'financing' available since they are priced well beyond what most people can save toward. In practice, I feel in terms of the health of society and the well-being of most of the people (the many who own little wealth collectively), this situation (which is getting worse over time as more and more wealth is concentrated in a smaller and smaller relative minority) is unhealthy for all.

"Intellectual property" used to mean someone who invented something had a right to profit exclusively by it ... but that's not the case anymore. Persons have learned to abuse Intellectual Property law, take advantage of situations to wheel and deal in I.P. wielding the power of I.P. lawyers to the point that even megalithic software makers like Microsoft find themselves getting swarmed with patent lawsuits. I.P. is more in the hands of legal sharks now than actual creators, and I think its become ugly. I am no fan of, say, Microsoft, but the I.P. grubbery has gotten so ugly that -- shudder to think on it -- I feel sorry even for Microsoft!

Closed engineering and designs are the way things have been for a long time. If it had not been for the advent of open source software, I would not have given serious consideration to an alternative to trying to come up with a secret to give me an edge over the other rats struggling to survive ... but the more I have thought on it, over the years, the more I like it. If I came up with an idea that could really help people, why shouldn't I share it?

I've also come to realize tyranny has been passed off from governments to corporations. If it wasn't for open source ecology, the amount of capital it would take just for the tools to work land and grow crops just to sustain onesself is beyond what most people can afford. I've seen the "urban farming," people who invest in growing their own food and whatnot, and it sounded like a good idea up until they mention how much it cost to do so ... it costs a lot more to grow their own crops to feed themselves than buying the cheap pesticide-and-artificial-hormone-fortified stuff at the grocery store, and unfortunately to me, that meant it wasn't really a sustainable idea for the masses who just aren't making it trying to work for The Man.

Some communes have sprang up, and have increasingly appealed to me. There's always the nagging questions, though ... would I fit in? Could I fit in? Could I pull my own weight as they needed me to? How much independence could they truly have ... they would still need capital to buy tractors and computers, wouldn't they?

And then a friend of mine introduced me to Open Source Ecology and the GVCS. Yeah, yeah, a nuclear fusion physicist came up with the idea ... and yet its very notion is so simple, I can't help but ask myself why the heck even a not-so-genius person hadn't come up with it!? Its absolutely brilliant for its basic simplicity: determine what tools a community would need to truly be able to take care of itself, develop and prototype those tools and come up with easy instructions on how to actually build each of those machines. No need to come up with $50,000 for a tractor, and tens of thousands of dollars more for the other equipment ... do-it-yourself instructions on how to make everything you need yourself!

A lot of my fellow countrymen like to chant 'freedom.' Some continue railing against governments as being tyrannical, and seem to not conceive of corporate power being just as tyrannical by locking up the means to take care of yourself to themselves. To me, any power over you can be tyrannical ... government, corporate, religious ... true freedom, to me, would be being able to choose an alternative, chucking all the norms and being able to truly live your own life instead of being locked into a rat race you have no guarantee of being able to get enough cheese at the end to survive. It provides a choice, an alternative. It may not be for everyone, but what is for the masses hasn't been working for me thus far. I grow increasingly suspicious of what dark secrets my employers hide in their closets ... so much labor exported to China, for instance, and I've read about the Laogai forced unpaid labor camps and can't help but think it is unlikely at least some parts of production making Wall Street wealthy comes from slave labor. I don't even feel comfortable "investing" money into an IRA for myself; I worry at least some part of it has benefited from this.

Open Source gives you an opportunity to see how everything is done. I wouldn't have to worry about paying for something I need, giving money that would make some few people rich from selling me something made in overseas sweat shops or even slave labor camps. If its built myself from raw materials, or by a small community of people I can actually get to know ... I know there are none of those shenanigans in the process. That is very powerfully appealing to me, especially combined with the freedom I feel it gives. I could take care of myself without feeling doing so rewards abuse of overseas workers by their governments and the already wealthy here in the U.S. (who dump hard-working fellow Americans to reduce their labor costs by replacing them with underpaid, or even unpaid, overseas labor). That would be a big burden off my ailing conscience!

  • Why are you interested in collaborating with us?

I really, really like the idea, the choice it provides and through that choice, freedom.

  • How do you think that the GVCS can address pressing world issues?

Its been said ideas can be the most powerful weapon. When the GVCS is complete, it could enable starving populations across the world to use what strength they have left in their hands and build the tools they would otherwise have no means of obtaining because of their poverty. It would enable people, even in "first world" nations such as the U.S., to have an alternative to playing the rat race game struggling to get sufficiently ahead to be able to afford the overpriced goods to make themselves comfortable. It offers an accessible means for people to escape starvation and tyranny, to not depend on the economic powers that take from you more than they give in return.

  • What should happen so that you become more involved with the project?

A place to sleep, food to eat, and I'm there! Unfortunately I am a ninny for anything mechanical, but I would love to take care of chores so those who do have the expert knowledge can focus on their jobs. I can cook, clean, pick up garbage, tame a jungle laughingly referred to as a yard, use my technical writing experience to help with written instructions that are both accurate and simple enough for anyone to follow, tend to animals (I have experience with cats, dogs, goats and horses, building and maintaining fences, etc.), keeping stock and running errands to replace what's out or nearly out, painting, making or establishing a spreadsheet or database to help keep track of stuff, analyze what's happening and projecting what will be needed. I'm a jack of many trades, I guess, but a master of none ... the only thing I really need to happen for me to become more involved, I guess, is someone needing a hand enough to ask me to jump in, crash on a couch (or a cot) and take care of chores that are eating their time which could be better spent developing the GVCS and related stuff.

  • What is missing in the project?

My guess would be time ... the idea is exciting, but like any idea, I think it just needs to be completed or have at least a demonstrable working model. The "I built this tractor, and it works!" is fantastic, but even more fantastic would be a start-to-finish showing, not just building the tools but how they work together.

  • What are your suggestions for improvement of the project?

Just keep pumping out demonstrations proving "anyone can do this!"

WHAT are your skills?

In general, "chore" stuff that I think could be helpful to free up time for the project engineers to develop the GVCS tools without having to lose time toward doing the chores themselves, and a few skills I think could more directly help such as my technical writing:

  • Communications - I have experience as a technical writer which could be useful to help write or edit do-it-yourself instructions; I am also decent at written communications and
  • Computer Support - Generally handy with a word processor, spreadsheet (just made an amortization spreadsheet from scratch for a friend) or database (Microsoft Office and OpenOffice); I do have experience in hand-coding HTML and CSS; I could also help process queues such as application requests as I have done so for a web hosting organization and preening through login accounts at a dialup ISP.
  • Finances - I can generaly help with some rudimentary budget making and planning on a spreadsheet, including generating amortization tables on a spreadsheet and using a spreadsheet to record and analyze expenses, etc.
  • Design - I do not have engineering expertise, but do have some novice (if dated) skills at AutoCAD and have played around with Google's Sketchup program; I feel I could become much more adept at these if it would be helpful for me to use them regularly
  • Natural Building - The notion appeals to me, using log construction, mud, hay insulation, etc., but I have no real experience
  • Electronics - I have no real experience aside from basic computer assembly
  • Automation - I have no real practical experience, but my experience as a technical writer involved documenting procedures and developing flowcharts, which I think is an essential element of figuring out how to develop machinery to automate tasks
  • Metallurgy - No real knowledge aside from basic table of elements knowledge; I would love to see magnetic materials incorporated into the GVCS that reduce friction and improve the durability of machines but do not have the knowledge necessary to provide expertise
  • Fabrication - Not much knowledge here, just a basic understanding of production flow from my work as a technical writer at an aerospace fabrication facility
  • Agriculture - I do have some limited experience; I worked at a potato farm as a quality control analyst, measuring levels of sucrose, dextrose, etc. from potatoes; I also helped plant and maintain a small vegetable garden (maybe a quarter acre total with tomatoes, carrots and some leafy greens) and learned a few tricks to reduce how much weeding needed to be done. I also have landscaping and animal care experience. I think animals have been too easily dismissed; I find goats to be far more efficient (in how much 'fuel' and 'maintenance' they need for the work they can do) and cost-effective, for instance, at clearing brush from fields than powerful tractors/brush mowers.
  • Energy - I understand the rudimentary basics, but have no real experience in mechanical or electrical electricity. I would love to see a practical means of electrolyzing water to produce free hydrogen and oxygen, as it is the most potent (and generally readily available) fuel I think could be practical for mobile, high-power needs, producing no greenhouse gas wastes ... but I have only an interest and no knowledge nor experience, unfortunately.
  • Architecture - No real experience, but I have fiddled around with AutoCAD (long ago, last version I used was AutoCAD 10) and Google Sketchup
  • Video/Graphics/Art - I am not much of an artist. I've aspired to learn animation on the heels of Tim Albee, an animator with professional Hollywood experience who made his own animation and wants to teach others how to make their own stories come to life by making animations of their own with only a few thousand dollars worth of computers and software ... I think it could be done for less with Blender (an open source animation package), but I have not really sunk my teeth into it yet. I have done some web graphics editing, old-time ASCII art and did dabble a bit in "Pixel Art."
  • PR/Marketing - This is definitely not my strong suit. I can write things in language the general public could easily understand, but I am not good at dressing something up with flashy catch-phrases or whatnot.
  • Education - If I clearly understand something, I think I can pass along that knowledge. I enjoyed my brief stint tutoring other students when I myself was a student at a community college. I feel I can also develop clear, accurate yet easy-to-understand written text that people can read and educate themselves with.
  • Construction - Unfortunately, I am not very handy with power equipment. I can level gravel, I have used a hammer and a powerdrill with wood screws to repair fences, done some painting (though I did not exactly receive a glowing review on my boss for the evenness of the coating), and I do seem to have a knack for doing measurement calculations in my head, but I am a bit nervous still at using power equipment such as Skil saws and tend to be weak overall with mechanical stuff. My work has been appreciated for cleanup ... I am generally good at finding wayward nails and screws and picking up debris and trash.
  • Industry - Not a whole lot of experience, but I know the value of standards and bang-for-the-buck value. I do have experience working in Quality Assurance/Control, developing written procedures and tests for things and developing a tracking system for assembly lines to help track down the source of quality control problems. I firmly believe that "human errors" are actually communication errors, and look for ways to improve training or think of ways a process could be done to reduce those errors rather than blaming the poor guy getting tired after being on his feet doing the same task all day long and making a mistake. I really don't care when a machine costs $1 million while the worker is only worth $7/hour ... I still value the person more than the machine.
  • CNC - I have no experience working with manufacturing machinery.
  • Product Design - No experience, really, but I definitely value substance over flash, and I tend to notice issues that were missed by "professionals" such as buttons or displays that are too prone to being damaged from regular use.
  • Other - I am not a master chef, but I think I can do a bit better than the average "tv dinner." My repertoire is kind of limited, but I can make a decent spaghetti (making my own sauce instead of relying on pre-made spaghetti sauce, though as cheap as that stuff has become, I must confess to using it more instead of the traditional day-long sauce cooking), casseroles, and my mother loves most of the cookies and cakes I've baked; I can certainly follow a recipe. I am also good at keeping stock of food inventory, ensuring oldest stuff gets used first and noticing something is running low before we completely run out. I consider myself a good shopper, I take the time to consider what the best deal is (how many oz. you get for the buck, balanced against some items not tasting that great; I also try to go for stuff that tastes good but has less cholesterol and sugar). I try to accommodate what folk like, don't like, or would never eat.
  • How have you already contributed to the project?

I've tried spreading the word. I would really love a chance to dig in and offer a hand. I wish I had the funds to donate, but unfortunately I've been out of work and without any real income for over two years.

HOW can you help?

  • How are you interested in contributing to the work of GVCS development?

I would love to take care of the more mundane tasks and chores so the engineers have more time devoted to developing the GVCS tools. I wish I had the engineering expertise to have a more direct hand, but think I'd be good at knocking down the weeds in the fields, picking up and clearing out trash, maybe cooking meals that frees up time for the GVCS to get developed.

  • Can you volunteer to work with us, and if so, how many hours per week?

If my help would be appreciated and I moved into the area, I wouldn't really have a limit. I have no dependents or obligations.

  • Are you interested in working with us for pay? If so, what services can you offer, and what is your hourly or per-project rate?

Pay would be nice, but not necessary if room and board was available in exchange for my labor. I have very little in the way of $ assets, and no income aside from a repayment of a loan I made to a friend (I lent them money; they are paying me back while trying to get rid of their APR-incurring debts).

I would love to use my technical writing talent ... my professional experience is a bit limited and old (around 8 months in the year 1997 -- 14 years ago), but I really enjoyed it. I authored about 300 pages of technical documentation for an aerospace factory; I boiled down every procedure for every project to simple written instructions and procedural flowcharts. The documentation was needed to comply with Boeing quality control standards and had been intended only to be used by quality control to essentially checklist production to ensure things were being made correctly, but when others saw the documentation, they praised me for how clear and simple it was, and my documentation found a double-use as a training manual for workers. The production manager gave me a verbal pat on the back and said he was genuinely impressed because a highschool dropout could come to the factory from McDonald's and have no trouble following the procedures I had documented. It is one of the few jobs I have done that I genuinely felt good about accomplishing something, and I would love a chance to put this passion to work for the GVCS.

I'd be happy to take care of chores to free up time for the engineers to develop the GVCS, such as cooking, cleaning, yard maintenance (I have professional lawncare experience and even planted and maintained a small vegetable garden for a boss on her personal ranch), animal care (I have limited experience tending fowl; most of my experience is with tending dogs, goats and horses ... but I have a general love of animals and, though I have no real veterinary knowledge, I do tend to notice things the experts miss such as slight limps and finding parasites; I also am good at doing fence perimeter checks and keeping an eye out for damage and fixing it as needed to wood or metal mesh fences). I am generally good at doing supply runs; I do better than my own mother at finding the best deals for food I buy at the supermarket (I really get penny-pinching there and look for the least-amount-of-money-per-ounce deals). From my several years' experience with a supermarket supplier (Frito-lay, the snack chips company), I have a real appreciation and eye for proper stock rotation (making sure oldest stock gets used first, avoiding letting food go to waste because it keeps getting buried at the back when supplies are low, someone buys new stuff and puts the fresher stuff ahead of the stuff in the back) ... I applied that same passion when dealing with animal feed in large bins; I'll find a temporary bin to dump the remainder of the old stock, dump the new food at the bottom of the empty bin, then put the old stuff back in on top of the new stuff so it gets used first.

Very much so! I've been rotting away with fruitless job search after fruitless job search. I've had trouble even finding volunteer stuff to do. To actually do something to help take care of myself by contributing to the development of a truly self-sufficient community would be a genuine honor for me.

  • Are you interested in purchasing equipment from us to help bootstrap development?

I really don't have the means to buy anything, unfortunately ... at present I can barely make my car insurance payments to allow me to keep driving.

  • Are you interested in bidding for consulting/design/prototyping work?

I haven't the means, sorry.

I have oodles of time on my hand, but no income to speak of, unfortunately. If I had even a minimum wage job, I would, but have been out of work since February 2009 and I was denied unemployment.

  • Would you like to see yourself working with us on a full-time basis?

Very much so! I don't even care about pay, really ... I really, truly feel Open Source Ecology and the GVCS development have an enormous potential to do a lot of good in a lot of places around the world, from right here in the U.S. to famine-plagued regions in Africa. If I could help out in any way, I would absolutely love to!

  • Are you interested in being part of the world's first, open source, resilient community? The GVCS is the preparatory step for the OSE Village Experiment – a 2 year, immersion experiment (2013-2014) for testing whether a real, thriving, modern-day prototype community of 200 people can be built on 200 acres using local resources and open access to information? We are looking for approximately 200 people to fill a diverse array of roles, according to the Social Contract that is being developed. This may be the boldest social experiment on earth - a pioneering community whose goal is to extend the index of possibilities regarding harmonious existence of humans, ecology, and technology.

Very, very much. I strongly yearn to be able to get up, do some work and do some good with that work in taking care of myself and comrades. I think that's the most frustrating thing about the society traditions we have ... I feel I've been told by every employer who doesn't answer my calls that no, I'm not worth doing something for them in exchange for money I can use to take care of myself. An opportunity to get rid of that, and just do work and have sufficiency without having to worry about how hard The Man is thinking about how much cheaper a 3rd-world-country worker would be since their governments don't protect their people from exploitation and abuse would be great. I don't want a mansion on a hilltop ... the basics of bed, food, and no walls to bar me from doing what needs to be done.