Archive for July, 2013

What We’re Reading July 26, 2013

What a week it’s been for videos! We’ve chosen two of our favorites to share with you: Mirror City, a magical, kaleidoscopic timelapse vision of cities by day and night, and Pico Iyer’s Ted Talk on “Where is Home.” Sandwiched between them is John Edward Huth’s “Losing Our Way in the World”, his account of getting lost in the fog far from land and how it ultimately transformed his view of the world. This week’s theme: seeing with new eyes.

In Mirror City timelapse photography meets a kaleidoscope meets Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Michael Shainblum wants you to see them like they’ve never been seen before. “I wanted to put man-made geometric shapes, mixed with elements of color and movement together to create less of a structured video, and more of a plethora of visual stimulation. The video starts with simple mirrors and recognizable architecture. As the video progresses, so does the visual stimulation, showing the real abstraction of the piece.” It’s a dazzler!

Image by Shimrit Elkanati

Shimrit Elkanati

Losing Our Way in the World…

“Over the next year I buried myself in a self-imposed program to learn navigation through environmental clues. I read about the traditional navigational scheme of Polynesians, how they memorized the positions of rising and setting stars to form a natural compass. The Norse had a system of telling time and orientation based on the position of the sun, with its low arc across the sky at the latitudes of Iceland and Greenland. I wrote flash cards to memorize the positions of major stars, and in idle moments quizzed myself on star positions. Over time, I was able to orient myself at night by stars, and during the day using shadows cast by trees. Rather than relying on weather forecasts, I could tell from the formations of the clouds in the sky and wind patterns whether it would rain that day. Acquiring these skills wasn’t a matter of armchair learning. It was a process of getting outside, observing and creating a kind of mental scaffolding to organize my observations.

…and finding our way home with Pico Iyer

“Travel for me is a little bit like being in love, because suddenly all your senses are at the setting ON. Suddenly you’re alert to the secret patterns of the world. The real voyage of discovery as Marcel Proust famously said consists not in seeing new sights but in looking with new eyes. And of course, once you have new eyes even the old sights, even your home becomes something different.”

This is yet another in a series of posts about what we’re reading at Whole Earth: stories about the environment, ecology, travel, outdoor living, ideas, art, writing, history, science, and creativity, and the people who make it happen. Have a suggestion? Please leave us a comment so we can add it to our reading list.

2013 Chaco Gives Back Recap

Chaco Gives Back image

We’re sending out a great big Texas “Thank You” to all of our Whole Earth customers who made the 2013 Chaco Gives Back program a huge success. With your help, the Friends of Enchanted Rock will receive a $5700 donation from Chaco! The Friends are planning to use the money to publish an Enchanted Rock Climbing Guide that will be pocket-sized, easy to read and cover the trails, routes and ethics of climbing in the park.

climber at Enchanted Rock

Climber at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area - TPWD

In previous years the Chaco Gives Back funds have been used for projects including retrofitting antiquated plumbing fixtures in the park to low-flow water saving systems, providing funding for visitor trail maps, and improving the trail system by reclaiming areas where small game trails have turned into human ones, causing erosion.

Thanks again for your support! We hope your Chacos are taking you on some great adventures this summer.

Greetings from the Pale Blue Dot!

Whole Earthlings Wave Hello to Cassini

Whole Earthlings Wave Hello to the Cassini Spacecraft

Greetings from the Pale Blue Dot!

NASA called it the first interplanetary photobomb and Whole Earth Provision Co. was there! On July 19th the Cassini spacecraft turned its camera towards Earth and took a picture. Cassini has photographed the Earth once before, but this was the first time that Earthlings knew in advance that their picture was going to be taken from a billion miles away. NASA hoped that people around the world would go outside to wave at Saturn while the photo-shoot was underway. Always happy to do our part, we gathered outside the Whole Earth office in Austin and sent salutations to Cassini and the ringed planet.

This is only the third photo of the Earth taken from the outer solar system. The first, the Pale Blue Dot, was taken 23 years ago by Voyager 1 from beyond Neptune. The other image was taken by Cassini in 2006. Why did NASA have Cassini take a picture of the Earth today? The spacecraft was taking advantage of an eclipse of the Sun by Saturn which made the Earth visible just outside the E ring.

Whole Earth ad circa 1970

One of our very first ads (1971)

Why is an image of our planet at such a distance so important? It’s a reminder of just how small we are in the great cosmic scheme of things and how precious our planet Earth really is. The Pale Blue Dot inspired Carl Sagan to write:

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Look again at that dot. That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. …The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand. It is said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

from Carl Sagan’s The Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

What We’re Reading July 19 2013

This week we’re reading stories about an amazing garden show in Montreal, the Mosaicultures Internationales; learning from ancient trees; how mending can add beauty and meaning; and the cataclysmic birth of gold.

Woman hugs a giant tree

photo by Scott A. Schneider / Flickr

Scott Russell Sanders experiences Mind in the Forest while visiting the Andrews Experimental Forest in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon.

Broken Pot by Melynn Allen

Broken Pot by Melynn Allen

Repairing things is about more than thrift. It’s about creating something bold and original.

photo by Guy Boily

photo by Guy Boily

What is the Mosaicultures Internationales in Montreal? Think of it as topiary meets the Tournament of Roses Parade.

image by Dana Berry

image by Dana Berry / Skyworks Digital Inc.

Gold is rarer than you think. It’s born from cataclysmic events like last month’s collision of two neutron stars.

This is yet another in a series of posts about what we’re reading at Whole Earth: stories about the environment, ecology, travel, outdoor living, ideas, art, writing, history, science, and creativity, and the people who make it happen. Have a suggestion? Please leave us a comment so we can add it to our reading list.

Earn Your PhD in Fun with a Pocket Disc

Earh a PhD in Fun!

Savanna’s slightly bumpy, crocheted potholder from third grade sat on the table for months. Then one day, out of the blue, her dad’s friend picked it up and threw it. Much to everyone’s amazement, it flew, straight as an arrow. Thus was born, the Pocket Disc, the toy so smart it deserves a PhD.

Portable happiness Dispenser

The Fair Trade, rainbow colored discs are hand-crocheted of 100% cotton by Mayan village women in Guatemala. The Mayans have been crocheting for several centuries, using distinctive color combinations in different regions of the country. Crocheting Pocket Discs helps village women earn extra pocket money to support their families.

Perfectly harmless Device that Promotes hand Dexterity

Kids of all ages love playing catch. Pocket Discs are especially good for young children who are just learning to throw and to catch. The soft crochet disc is easy to catch, easy to throw, and does no harm if it accidently makes a direct hit on a face or any other tender spot.

Prevents home Destruction

The Pocket Disc is one of a handful of throwing toys that can be used indoors. The soft crochet disc spares furniture, though caution should be used in the presence of fragile objects! One unexpected indoor use for a Pocket Disc is as a cobweb remover. If the offending cobweb is beyond reach, aim your disc, throw and, behold, cobweb removed! Other handy uses for the Pocket Discs include: pot holder, coaster, Beret, duster or floor saver, to name only a few.

It’s time to earn your PhD. in fun with a Pocket Disc.

Visit Whole Earth Provision Co.’s facebook page this July and look for our Pocket Disc contest. You could win a Pocket Disc of your very own!

Win a PhD

Find Waldo

So where is Waldo? This July you can find him in some of your favorite Austin independent businesses, including Whole Earth Provision Co. on North Lamar. To take part in this year’s Scavenger Hunt, download your Find Waldo Passport. When you visit one of the participating local businesses and find Waldo, the store will stamp or sign your Passport. Then when you’ve gathered at least 10 stamps, bring your Passport to Bookpeople where you will be entered into a contest to win a 6 volume collection of Where’s Waldo books and other great prizes. You can also bring your Passport to the Wonderful Waldo Wrap Up Party on Saturday, August 3rd at noon at Bookpeople. There’ll be prizes, games and Austin’s Pizza! It’s time to print out your Passport and find Waldo!

Celebrating Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau Packs for an Excursion

When July and August rolled around, Henry David Thoreau was ready, for what he called, an excursion. Thoreau is well-known for having traveled a good deal in Concord, but his excursions carried him farther afield to Maine, Cape Cod, Philadelphia, New York City, the Great Lakes, Niagara Falls, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Mackinac Island. Several of these journeys were transformed into books: A Yankee in Canada, The Maine Woods and Cape Cod . Thoreau’s biographer Henry Seidel Canby describes these travel guides as “propaganda for the art of sauntering with an open eye, and for the proper use of leisure.” In them, we can catch a glimpse of Thoreau on vacation.

Thoreau’s excursions were inspired by books on travel and natural history. Like many of us, he used the winter months to read about and dream of summer destinations. “Books of natural history make the most cheerful winter reading. I read in Audubon with a thrill of delight, when snow covers the ground, of the magnolia, and the Florida keys, and their warm sea breezes ….” (Natural History of Massachusetts). We know that Thoreau also read books by William Bartram, Charles Darwin, Magellan, James Cook, the arctic explorers John Franklin, Alexander Mckenzie and William Parry, David Livingstone, Richard Francis Burton and Lewis and Clark, to name only a few.

When he was 22, Thoreau traveled lightly. In A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, Thoreau chronicles a journey taken by boat and afoot with his brother John, from Concord to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. He notes that: The cheapest way to travel and the way to travel farthest in the shortest distance is to go afoot, carrying
· A dipper
· A spoon
· A fish-line
· Some Indian meal
· Some salt
· Some sugar

We have to imagine that the brothers may have carried a few more items than just these on their journey. But at this time in his life, Thoreau was more an adventurer than a natural historian.

Compare the 1839 list with this one: “Outfit for an Excursion.” It was published as an Appendix in The Maine Woods. For twelve days travel in Maine in the month of July Thoreau suggests:

Wear – a checked shirt, stout old shoes, thick socks, a neck ribbon, thick waistcoat, thick pants, old Kossuth hat [a soft hat with a wide flexible brim], a linen sack
Carry – in an India-rubber knapsack, with a large flap, two shirts (check), one pair of thick socks, one pair drawers, one flannel shirt, two pocket handkerchiefs, a light India-rubber coat or a thick woolen one, two bosoms [dress shirts] and two collars to go and come with, one napkin, pins, needles, thread, one blanket, best gray, seven feet long.
Tent – six by seven feet, and four feet high in the middle, will do; veil and gloves and insect-wash, or, better, mosquito-bars [a net or curtain] to cover all at night; best pocket map, and perhaps description of the route; compass; plant-book, and red blotting-paper; paper and stamps, botany, small pocket spy-glass for birds, pocket microscope, tape-measure, insect boxes.
Axe, full size if possible, jackknife, fish-lines, two only apiece, with a few hooks and corks ready, and with pork for bait in a packet, rigged; matches (some also in a small vial in the waist-coat pocket); soap, two pieces; large knife and iron spoon (for all); three or four old newspapers, much twine, and several rags for dishcloths; twenty feet of strong cord, four-quart tin pail for kettle, two tin dippers, three tin plates, a fry pan.
Provisions – Soft hardbread [hardtack], twenty-eight pounds; pork, sixteen pounds; sugar, twelve pounds; one pound black tea or three pounds coffee, one box or a pint of salt, one quart of Indian meal, to fry fish in; six lemons, good to correct the pork and warm water; perhaps two or three pounds of rice, for variety. You will probably get some berries, fish, &c., beside.
A gun is not worth the carriage, unless you go as hunters. The pork should be in an open keg, sawed to fit; the sugar, tea or coffee, meal, salt &c., should be put in separate water-tight India-rubber bags, tied with a leather string; and all the provisions, and part of the rest of the baggage, put into two large India-rubber bags, which have proved to be water-tight and durable.

The plant book, blotting paper, botany, spyglass, pocket microscope, tape measure and insect boxes show Thoreau’s deepening interest in recording his observations of the natural world. William Howarth in his book Thoreau in the Mountains, suggests that the meat, bread and coffee were taken to satisfy his companions on the Maine adventures. He believes that even in his later life Thoreau’s personal style was Spartan and more in line with the list from A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. Howarth also describes Thoreau’s pack: “An average load weighed about fifty pounds, not suspended on a frame (as with modern packs) but hanging from narrow, unpadded straps. With that load he climbed the steepest trails, setting a faster pace than most of his companions.”

In his Journal Thoreau adds one more item to his list of suggestions on packing for an excursion . Before setting off on your journey, create a list of questions that can, hopefully, be answered during the course of the trip. “I have found my account in travelling, in having prepared before hand a list of questions which I would get answered – not trusting to my interest of the moment – and can then travel with the most profit.” (Journal – August 30, 1856) The questions you carry with you will keep you engaged with new places and people and may lead to unexpected answers and a whole new series of questions. This tidbit of traveling wisdom may be Thoreau’s best advice for us today as we plan our own excursions and adventures.

What We’re Reading July 12 2013

Variety is the spice of this week’s offerings. Barry Lopez writes about the work of the modern naturalist as a link between the world of nature and the world of culture; what we’re really doing when we say Please and Thank You; a closer look at Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds; scientists discover that the essence of life may be coexistence; and last of all, photos of amazingly colorful landforms in China. Enjoy!

“In all the years I have spent standing or sitting on the banks of this river, I have learned this: the more knowledge I have, the greater becomes the mystery of what holds that knowledge together, this reticulated miracle called an ecosystem.” from Naturalist by Barry Lopez.

Despite our insistence that children say Please and Thank You, it’s not a universal custom. David Graeber looks at the surprising roots of this custom.

Seven things you might not know about “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

Scientists have long wondered how much life can be stripped down and still remain alive. The answer seems to be that the essence of life is not some handful of genes, but coexistence.

While this may look photoshopped, it’s not. Take a look at these amazing photos of the Zhangye Daxia Landform in China.

This is yet another in a series of posts about what we’re reading at Whole Earth: stories about the environment, ecology, travel, outdoor living, ideas, art, writing, history, science, and creativity, and the people who make it happen. Have a suggestion? Please leave us a comment so we can add it to our reading list.

Safety Recall Notice – Fred and Friends Buff Baby Rattle

Whole Earth was alerted to a voluntary product recall for the Buff Baby Rattle by Fred and Friends on June 27, 2013.  We removed this rattle from from our shelves at that time.  These rattles’ end caps can separate, releasing small parts, posing a choking hazard to small children.  Please refer to the notice below (received by Whole Earth on July 11, 2013)  for contact information for the manufacturer.

Buff Baby Rattle Recall Notice


What We’re Reading July 5th 2013

Here at Whole Earth Provision Co. this has been a big week for stories about 3-D printing. Did you read about a prototype cast for broken bones, a prosthetic foot for a duck and a grotto, all printed using this amazing technology? Another favorite was a map that combines the current political map of the world superimposed on the ancient supercontinent of Pangea (from the Greek meaning Whole Earth!). You won’t believe the countries who suddenly become neighbors and those who suddenly need a navy. Happy reading!

Even though it looks like a fashion statement, it’s really a conceptual 3-D printed exoskeletal cast!

Buttercup the Duck needed a new webbed foot. 3-D printing to the rescue!

Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenburger are using 3-D printing to create a room-sized art installation, Grotto, at the Materializing exhibition at the Tokyo University School of the Arts.

Massimo / mi laboratorio de ideas!

“It’s one thing to see the continents reassembled into a single block – the stuff of any paleogeological map of Pangea – but quite another to see the US state of Florida hemmed in between the Guyanas and the Guineas; to witness Antarctica, Australia and the Indian subcontinent conspirationally huddled together in the world’s most improbable threesome….” Frank Jacobs at Strange Maps

This is yet another in a series of posts about what we’re reading at Whole Earth: stories about the environment, ecology, travel, outdoor living, ideas, art, writing, history, science, and creativity, and the people who make it happen. Have a suggestion? Please leave us a comment so we can add it to our reading list.