Author: Emma

"When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us" A.G. Bell

The Emerald Cup

Northern California. A place of towering trees, over-priced real estate and a passion for cannabis, and this weekend was the Nor-Cal cannabis community’s biggest party: The Emerald Cup.

fullsizeoutput_6aWhat is the Cup? It’s a contest for the best products and strains, it’s a B2B marketplace with new cannabis strains, resin extractors, trimmers, soil bags etc on display, it’s a brand showcase where every farm with a logo, instagram and enough cash on hand to afford a booth show to off their Glues and their Blues and their OGs and their Lemons and on and on. It’s also a dab fest, vendors offer unlimited free dabs to any and all people allowed into the 215 Area.

Emerald Cup 2017 revealed a subculture in transition. Classic Emerald Triangle full season flower farms were relegated to a secondary tent and had the feel of a darker, danker scene than the brightly lit brands in the Canna-Craft Pavilion of Pot. Flow Kana, one of the most well known and respected of the artisanal flower farm collectives was along the back wall. Moon Made Farm’s Tina Gordon handed out pre-rolls from a leather bandolier sash, proudly pointing to the QR and bar code on the plastic vial packaging “the first seed to sale track and trace!” The track and trace program is vital to preserving the value of cultivation area appellations, applied wine-like, to local cannabis. The Emerald Triangle is fighting to maintain its reputation, by statute and by brand. The traditional signifiers of Northern California weed culture were in this tented area: dreadlocks, balloony pants, semi-precious gemstone necklaces done in wire wrap settings, vegan edibles, a heavy downbeat from the speakers, and of course, the implied rejection of disposable corporate culture…

The Canna-Craft Home of the High, on the other hand, was an explicit grin at Big Pharma. One CEO told me that he could easily see his brand on the shelves of CVS. I told him about the branding of one company, Leef, that I could easily see being sold at Anthropologie. It’s all easy to see. Anyone sticking to muddy greens and swirly organic shapes looks like old news, it’s the clean look now. Black and white, with Pantone sanctioned color blocks, crisp like a tennis skirt and about as edgy. These companies are the rich white kids in the 80s Brat Pack movies. They may be getting high, but they’ve got bright futures in pharma boardrooms. It’s antiseptic and cool for the capitalistic set.

Photo from trychemistry.com

Chemistry, a small outfit out of Oakland, has a lovely white vape pen with a polygon rainbow in vogue tones for their logo. At nearly 80% THC this is a seriously mind-altering substance. You get just as high sipping on the pen as hitting one of those e-nail rigs, but boy you sure look a lot sharper with the pen. It’s not all optics. Chemistry won 3rd place in the Distillates category, vaulting into the rarified echelon of companies that a consumer (and investor) might recognize. They went from a tiny shared booth in the back corner with a product they launched last week to Cup-wide (or at least, distillate interest-wide) notoriety. Things can happen very quickly. The question for the fast-paced companies is: are they ready to scale when it happens? Being exciting now is great, but if you’re one year in with a five year exit and a nine figure valuation in mind, you had better time your top salability right.

 

fullsizeoutput_6b

Rebel Grown at Emerald Cup 2017

While Chemistry is a new company finding commercial success by dispensing with the stigma of the grimy black market days, Rebel Grown embraces it. Self-described “rebels of the past with a lifelong dedication to our craft”, they’re known for breeding top-of-the-line Diesels, and to stray too far from butch would have been out of step with their product. What they managed to do was create (craft?) a brand that stays loyal to the posturing of guerrilla growers in Humboldt, without alienating new consumers or women. Rebel Grown presents a muscular brand that manages to be tough without being intimidating. It’s not an easy row to hoe. They needed to sell a badass brand for their B2B products (the seeds and clones of high gas plants), to their commercial cultivator customers, but one that also worked on a retail consumable product. If Leef is selling CBD to rich girls in boutiques, and Chemistry is getting young professionals high, Rebel Grown is #rebelasfuck, and they’re what’s up at the rock show.

The mood of the Cup was upbeat. This is a sales event, after all, and many of the attendees were there for the party. Never mind the disquieting news that flower cultivators are struggling to get $800 per unit (one unit = one pound) that went for 3 times that just a few years ago, and just the cultivator’s tax to the state alone is $44 per unit. Never mind that next year there won’t be free dabs. Never mind if Cannabis gets rescheduled to Schedule II things might get really bad.

“It makes me sad”, said one entrepreneur I spoke to. We were standing in the middle of the fair grounds, watching the cheerful, slow moving crowd cluster around food carts and filter into a beer garden. Despite his success, he was wistful for the old days. “The new folks just don’t understand what this is like for us!” exclaimed a long-time cultivator, to a round of amens and head shaking. “I just got off 12 years of federal paper”, a lawyer I’d guess to be in his 60s said to me. “I did 6 years of federal time, I’ve been on federal paper for 12 years, I just got off this week. I kept my law license though, and my daughter is my paralegal. We are going to keep going, keep fighting. I’m going to hire a bunch of empty heads and strong backs right out of law school and litigate the hell out of these statutes.”

Prices are plummeting, but business is booming. There is still a sense of community and common cause, but the truth is that subcultures will remain subcultures, and the mainstream will remain anodyne. Is one wrong and one right? Can they coexist and support each other in a market? Will the Nor-Cal Spirit win out over East Coast avarice, Middle West sensibility, and Silicon Valley-style funding and business models? I sure hope so. There are a lot of good people working hard to keep the Northern California economy afloat in these uncertain and increasingly automated times, and we should all be in that together. The Emerald Cup felt united and excited, but fundamentally uncertain about how the next few years will go.

 

Competition and the Introvert Girl

Back when I was a just an idealistic young thing, I told my mother I wanted to go into publishing. I wanted to be an editor, after all, my friends all came to me to edit their work. I’d be a good editor! I edit!

“It’s very competitive”, she warned me, “Why not go to law school, you can always get a job if you have a law degree.” Job security seemed nice, but it was that fear of competition that sent me scuttling towards a career I am deeply unsuited for. If my mom though it was too competitive for me… well, it must be? Right?

Competition is scary for the confrontation phobic. And when people say, “it’s very competitive…” and then sort of trail off… It feels like they’re saying, “You’re not good enough to compete in that field.”

For those of us who go to absurd lengths to avoid confrontation, competition is terrifying. It means setting oneself against another in public. For introverts the arena is the last place we want to be. We only like to perform if it’s a) anonymous or b) among people we already trust.

This is a real challenge to doing anything outside our comfort zone. We will believe your doubtful tone, maybe more than you do. We take that shit right to heart.

So, to the friend of the venturing introvert:

Don’t tell your friend that what they want to do is highly competitive. It is not a helpful critique. It is a negative statement. Your friend is hearing: “I don’t think you’re good enough.” Ask about your friend’s strategy, and give constructive criticism from your own experience. Your introvert friend will respond to a discussion about pros and cons, and will appreciate your listening and your input. They will NOT appreciate your stomping on their idea with a dismissive, empty comment. Also, they will never forget it, whichever direction you take. If an introvert tries out an idea on you, they are handing you their heart, you only get one chance to show you respect that.

To the introvert:

Just ignore them. They don’t know you. Don’t bother to grow a thicker skin, your skin is so thick nothing gets out. You listen and give supportive advice, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be rewarded with the same. Everything is competitive now, even eating, so just cancel out that noise.

Here is my advice (based on my attempts to not be scared out of a new venture (see last post)):

Make a list of people whose opinion you value. Look at your phone, who do you text with? Who do you feel safe with? Ask them. You don’t ask an electrician to fix your plumbing, don’t ask a steamroller to plant seeds.

Be open to partnerships. I was lucky, I was approached by an old friend who needed a business partner. Part of the reason he asked me is because we’re so different. He’s as energetic an extrovert as ever bought a round for strangers at a bar.  He can walk into a room of strangers and walk out with a wedding invitation. I can go to a wedding and not meet a single person.

My partner has all the ego and confidence I need to fight my natural diffidence. He is not intimidated, and I trust him because he’s always respected my input. He is intelligent enough to value my process, for instance, he needs someone to take notes while he spouts out ideas, and then to read them back in a cogent, critical manner. I need time to write down my thoughts, and then present them to someone who has the good sense hear them with positivity, and to discuss them openly.

It’s not easy, but easy was never a part of the deal. Competition can be beaten without a Tarzan-yell, it just takes dedication, smarts, and hard work. And yes, I am at all times wondering why the hell I didn’t become a librarian. And maybe I will. But let’s see where we get in this competition first.

No sense giving up without a quiet, determined fight.

 

 

 

 

Is Voting for Bernie Anti-Feminist?

 

The following is a adapted from a letter I sent out to some women who have long been feminist touchstones for me. One was my mother, a weaver and retired early childhood educator, the other is a former Dean and retired professor at the University of Vermont and the third a friend-from-childhood who teaches high school English. 

 

I just read an article (see below) and I thought you might find it interesting as well. I’m not sure how much any of you have been following, but Gloria Steinem really put her foot in her mouth the other day by saying (on late night TV) that young, female Sanders supporters are only supporting him because boys are, and girls “want to be where boys are” and then she was followed up by Madeline Albright at a Clinton rally, who essentially told women they’re going to hell for not supporting Hillary, because there is “a special place… for women who do not help each other.” There is certainly a gap here, and I’m curious what you all think about it.

I’ll never forget my Women in the Law professor YELLING at us, slamming her fists on the table, when the 8 women taking her class all agreed that a woman who chose to “stay in the home”, as long as it was her free and clear choice, was exercising her rights as a person and that it was not problematic for us to see such a woman as a feminist and we certainly didn’t think she was rowing the wrong way down the river. She was horrified that we felt that way, and insisted that any woman “in the home” had essentially counted herself out of the fight for equality, and worse, was actively working against women.
I think that a similar disagreement is before us. I believe that many young women feel that it’s their right as equals to NOT have to consider the gender of our leaders as pivotal, and that tokenism is dangerous and leads to a false sense of progress. Even as “thought leaders” declared that we live in a post-racial society because we have a black president the plague of police brutality against black people went on unchecked. I don’t mean to say that Hillary, a tireless leader and warrior for herself and women, is a token politician, I mean to say that I do not believe that voting her into office will result in a balm of equality to finally soothe our suffering.
I also believe that the intersection of class has become far more prominent for young women. My peers have (thanks entirely to the fighting of women before us) very few stories of slap-on-the-ass sexism but have many examples of class inequality as well as the experience of the 2008 Great Recession. It is college loans that women point to when talking about why they haven’t bought a home or new car, not a chauvinist mortgage loan officer who wants a man to co-sign. Because both Bernie and Hillary are feminists, and he supports a woman’s right to choose and pay equity it’s harder to see what women lose by electing Bernie. Bernie’s no-holds-barred attacks on Wall Street resonate with an angry and disenfranchised population who see the 1% as the oppressor. A gendered oppressor certainly, but not one that is pointedly anti-women.
The article:

If you’re still interested, Camille Paglia on Hillary: http://www.salon.com/2016/01/27/camille_paglia_hillarys_blame_men_first_feminism_may_prove_costly_in_2016/

My mother and the professor both said that Paglia’s article “made them puke.” Her name is everywhere right now, anyone have any ideas on why she’s striking a chord?
And The Great Gail Collins with a short history of Hillary and women running for president: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/08/opinion/sunday/hillary-in-history.html

The Anti-Alienator

There are a lot of things to buy right now. Things are ON SALE. You can buy more shit right now than you know what to do with. All those things? Those decorative things? Those plastic things? That thing that your friend has that really ties the room together, you can buy that fucker. For 30% off.

Look, I’m a Loehman’s girl, don’t get me wrong. I love a deal. And, this may shock you, I’m a materialist. I love things, I get attached to things, getting rid of things is terribly hard for me. Why do you think my posts are so long? My high school American and European history teacher was helping me edit my college admissions essay, and angrily told me I was “the most anal-retentive student” he’d ever worked with (thanks for getting me into Kenyon, Brad, love you!).

My point is, I see it. I get it. Things are great, they’re cool, it’s fun to get new ones. But cheap things suck. They break, unravel, fade and eventually make you feel cheap, broke and bad. So you buy more, and soon you’re swimming in pointless, redundant shit that has become one mass of crap that saps your will to live happily and you sate with one more goddamn cute thing. And in the end, you’re alone, surrounded by shit that you only bought to compense for the shit you already had, that you didn’t connect with in the first place.

The only answer is to only get shit that you really really really connect with. Then you’ll love your shit. The best way to do this is to buy very few things made by people who are connected to it. This is science.

Marx, my fav sociologist, has a theory of alienation (you may have heard of it in a cafe from a dude with earlobe spacers and a nasal voice). In the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 Marx writes about 4 different alienations (caused by capitalist structures):

  1. Alienation of the worker from the product of her labor;
  2. Alienation of the worker from the work (the act of production);
  3. Alienation of worker from herself (as a producer); and
  4. Alienation of the worker from other workers.

There isn’t a switch we can flip to up-end capitalist structures. We’re well saddled, and it’s a long slow slog. Basically, the climate is going to force the issue of change, and we have to keep working for equality EVERY DAY, but how the fuck do we get through the holiday season? How to we all take those small steps toward change that come to be a flood?

Here’s my solution. Buy from craftspeople. Don’t buy a lot. Just buy one thing, and buy it from someone who is upending capitalist structures by rejecting alienation. Realize that they’re also rejecting power (aka money) within the current neoliberal framework, and if you also want to reject the structural violence inherent in this system, you must support them.

So, I’m using my minor FB and twitter presence to promote those I know who are doing it for the love of the make. For the connection to the product, for the connection to the rest of the world, for the sense of accomplishment, pride and joy that comes from sharing something you’ve made with someone else. Share the love, give gifts that are made with care and love. Maybe it means it’s a small gift. But look, if you have people in your life who judge gifts based on size, amount, electrical wattage or anything other than showing you care, just don’t get them anything, they suck and they don’t appreciate you. For real.

Send me your suggestions for craftspeople, artists, social enterprises and the like, and I’ll include them in my posts!

Networking While Introverted: 7 Suggestions

I am an introvert. Meaning I go full mime in unfamiliar social situations. This makes the “job hunt” a.k.a. “networking” a draining tragi-drama of Jacobean proportions. In this nepotistic, extrovert-loving society it’s all who you know. This rule can screw introverts, who usually have a “quality not quantity” friend circle mentality. Us introverts must hope our silence in social situations comes off as interesting, not awkward, and that our apparent seriousness attracts the illusive “connectors.”  Having gone through this painful process before, and finding myself much more equal to the task in the round I’ve just begun in San Francisco, I have a list of suggestions for my fellows. These also work if you have the sort of boss that insists you network as part of your job.

First Suggestion. Do not go to networking events alone. Choose your partner well. Don’t be a duckling to a rutting peacock, you will feel self-conscious and awkward. Make sure it’s someone who actually wants to hang out with you. Going with another introvert can work well. Being awkward together is better than being awkward alone, and if you both know a person each, then you have networked, you may leave.

Second Suggestion. One glass of wine is plenty. Alcohol leads to so many inner voices in your head that you will trip, fall, drop, break, drool, sneeze and unintentionally insult. And feel like a total ass, and set yourself back just as you’re starting to gain confidence. Instead, think of scotch (or whatever) as your reward when you get home.

Third Suggestion. If you are at a networking event. Tell yourself you can leave after 15 minutes. Everything after that is a bonus. Do not add any more agony by pressuring yourself with numbers of business cards exchanged. Fuck it, you’re there, aren’t you? Good enough. Also, go to town on any free food. Might as well get a meal out of it.

Fourth Suggestion. Love coffee and lunch networking meetings. Mano a mano. So easy. Yes, scary, but not as scary as a seething room of people who all seem to know each other, and plus the other person might not be scared, and will confidently begin the small talk

Fifth Suggestion. Hilary Hodge’s Law: ask three questions. Any three questions. “Where’d you get that coat?” “When did you start work at _____.” “Is that a cyst?” Don’t use that last one. See next suggestion.

Sixth Suggestion. Pay attention to whatever the person your face is faced at is saying. Do not focus on alarming details and use that to go away in your mind. This is counter productive to the networking, to conversation, and to digesting your lunch/coffee if the detail is particularly off-putting. I have yet to have this last problem, but I foresee how it could occur.

Seventh Suggestion. Remember that you are not being literally strangled. Breathe. Breathe in the car, or while peeing. You can breathe, no matter how many strangers are yelling to each other about things they think are hilarious, and eying silent you suspiciously. You will not die, you will continue to breathe. Just focus on the breath. And the triple cream brie or mini-key lime pies, whatever they’re serving. Some networking events have better food than others. Just breathe and only attend the events with worthwhile food.

I hope these help. If you have any suggestions please do share.

 

 

A Changing Palette

Yesterday I walked out over a frozen gravel road along Lake Champlain in Vermont. The sky was slightly overcast, adding some grey and violet to the watery blue and gold of an early setting sun. Over the fields brown, empty corn stalks poking up from the snow, framed by dark evergreens. The Green Mountains to the east showed up indigo, and the lake was a mercurial silver-grey. I blamed the dog for having forgotten my camera, and with my hands stuffed into my pockets, I reflected on the colors of this past year.

In March I left Vermont just before spring sprang, and flew to Manila. From Manila I went to Tacloban City, and from there to Boracay, then Vietnam, then back to Tacloban, then to every major (and many minor) islands in Leyte. From there to San Francisco, then Sonoma, then Vermont, which left me to a solo drive across the United States back to Nevada, then California again, then a quick trip to Port-au-Prince, then back to California and now, again, here in the quiet jewel tones of Vermont.

What an incredible world.

 

Thoughts on Drew Endy’s iGEM Revolution Seminar for the Long Now Foundation

My friend Ikka Riley invited me to a “biotech talk, I think about engineering tiny robots.” last night. It turned out to be one of the Long Now Foundation’s seminars, and it either had everything or nothing to do with engineering tiny robots. First there was a fascinating short video of artist Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests, then Drew Endy took the stage. He is slim, young looking, and well dressed, aside from wearing a pair of crocs which were, at least, a demur navy blue.

Ikka is an authority on (among other things) how poorly visionary scientists translate their work to the public. I believe that Dr. Endy could use her advice. Not being a scientist myself, but with enough know-how to follow the seminar, I was left underwhelmed by Dr. Endy’s responses to the questions posed by the audience. Now, the audience was made up of Long Now members, people who are actively interested in scientific development in the long term. Most concerning to me was Dr. Endy’s flippant responses to the questions concerning using his work for evil.

Let me jump back a minute. Dr. Endy pioneered BioBricks, and began the iGEM Jamboree/competition whose tagline is “Synthetic Biology based on standard parts”. Basically, he is learning and teaching how to engineer biological organisms by fiddling with their genes. Nothing so simplistic as putting jellyfish DNA in your tomato, but actually creating organisms to order. Sort of like some folks think God did by strength of will alone. Now, I am not scared of science, nor do I believe in a magic man in the clouds, but I am rather haunted by Oppenheimer’s “Now I am become Death” Bhagavad Gita quote.

All of Dr. Endy’s work sounds pretty neat. He didn’t go too deeply into applications (colored poo as diagnostic tool!), but did dwell on the deep need for better standards of measurement, and on the value of “tinkering” as opposed to a more strangled scientific method.

However, when asked about the use of this standardized bio-engineering for evil, he refused to be drawn into the conversation. “Nope, can’t happen” is a close approximation of his response. When prodded by mediator Stewart Brand he referenced something about botulism recipes in Boston newspapers and how nobody made it and that there is some negative feedback loop that will keep evildoers from accomplishing blahblahblah. I think what he was saying is that no one who can actually do this kind of work would ever do it for evil. Which is bullshit because evil is, in large part, subjective. To the Nazis, Jews were evil, and of course, vice versa.

Please, Dr. Scientist, make us believe that your work is actually for the public good. Make it safe, bring in lay folks with real concerns, don’t just roll your eyes at us plebes and our cotton-wool brains, but engage with us. We have the humanities degrees, we know why WWI turned into the meat grinder that it did, and we talk about cultural legacies and politics and motivations. Your very unconcern is insulting, and it reflects very poorly on you, and makes us believe that you are not really considering the negative possibilities of your discoveries in a real and engaged way. Which makes us not want to fund it.

Arrival in Oakland

Two days ago I wound my way down Highway 50 from South Lake Tahoe, and arrived in Oakland. Over the last week I logged 3000+ miles as I drove west from Vermont. There is much to contemplate as you travel across America, many observations are cliched but true: wide open spaces, flat, corn… There is also a deep sense of sadness that I feel crossing the plains and prairies. I think of the cultures and civilizations that flourished here for millennia, now gone or sidelined in their decline, and the great herds of buffalo now reduced to roadside attractions. The radio stations reported on the hawks’ drums beating for more war and the new iPhones before lapsing back into tired pop, classic rock, or derivative country and western hits.

I thought back to how I made this journey over ten years ago. My friend Mary and I, our pennies saved from restaurant work, heading out into the great unknown of adulthood. Then we had wandered north along Highway 90, heading south down into Colorado, and then eventually arriving in the Bay Area, wide eyed and dusty. This time I was directed. Heading straight along, stopping only for tornadoes and sleep, and to brew french press coffee (to the mystification of many a gas station cashier).

Now I have more of the world under my belt. My eyes are still wide, but less clouded with lingering adolescent fantasies. Now begins the search for an organization, company, nonprofit, or foundation that I can devote my energies to. The Bay is replete with energetic far-thinkers, and I am looking forward to meeting them all.