Why did you write Home Energy Diet, and what did you hope to accomplish by publishing it?
The notion of the Home Energy Diet occurred to me around 1999 when, after my 2,579th energy audit where I answered the same dozen or so questions Ė again Ė I thought: "Somebody should write a book." So I did.
There are plenty of lists outlining how to save energy, but I wanted to take things a step further and explain the reasons why. "Why" includes the rationale behind energy saving tips, the principles by which energy using devices work, and both the global and personal impacts of energy use and cost. I think that if we understand the issues and the principles at work (at all levels in the world), we are more likely to take action at any of those levels. The real challenge was to make all this palatable to the general reader, and my years of kitchen table energy education helped greatly with this task.
The Home Energy Diet starts off with a chapter on Energy Literacy to give readers global and local perspectives on energy use, while subsequent chapters offer tips for saving along with the background you need to make an informed choice. Knowledge empowers us to live better lives.
Here's a photograph of me standing next to a solar panel and wind powered whirligig, holding a jar of biodiesel. In the background are my solar powered house and clothes dryer, and woodshed (way far away). I wanted this to be the Ďauthor photo' for the book but they said it was too busy.
Here are Paul's responses to our Self-Interview series of questions. We hope you find them informative and amusing.
What's the ugliest part of your body?
What a terrible first question. Ugly is in the eye of the beholder. To the extent that the physical manifestation of the spirit is reflected in the body, there is no ugly, no beauty, merely reflection to be considered by the personification of others. Subjectiveness is a measure of the level of acceptance of the "is" ness of being.
I have no ugliness, though perhaps I would choose my hairy ears if my chakras were low.
What's your fantasy dinner party?
Chef Thomas Keller of the French Laundry cooks for us. We are those who have shared life, experience, and family. There are no politics or pretense, only conversation of life, experience, and family. It lasts all day and far into the next.
What lesson did you learn too late?
There is nobody at the helm.
Take care of your back.
What lesson did you learn most recently?
Parents really do act out of love for their children.
A book to recommend?
With so many good technical manuals and journals, it's hard to find time for a good book. Seriously, the last good fiction I read was Stripah Love, but I also enjoyed the 2003 compilation, Best Food Writing.
A piece of music to recommend?
This changes nearly daily, but this past week it has been Leo Kotke and Mike Gordon's renditions of "Sweet Emotion." More lasting? Anything by J.S. Bach, Yo Yo Ma, or Eddie Palmieri...
The best cultural event of your life?
Walking down the street in QuFu, China, I turned a corner past the affluent university neighborhood and in one step, tumbled into another world. It was like Dorothy waking up from the world of Oz. Men on bustling street corners playing checkers, people cooking, cleaning, sewing on the sidewalk, growing food on coffee table size plots of depleted dirt. An old man sat shelling peas while next to him others baked bread smacked onto the inside of a coal burning oven. Without thinking, I sat down next to him, picked some peas out of his basket, and began to shell them. He smiled and nodded, we exchanged "Ni hao" (hello), my only Chinese word. I don't know why I did it, but throwing myself into foreign ideas and experiences is one of the things that gets me up in the morning. Work, shared experience, nods and smiles; we humans have a core that wants to share, to accept.
My wife turned on the video camera and the entire neighborhood came running out of their homes and shops. She wanted to document their bread making and cooking on the coal stove; they wanted to see themselves appear magically and famously on the little screen. Everybody got to see themselves. An hour later we had some great video, and as a bag full of bread was handed to us by the woman, we all passed smiles and shared a look into our common eyes that might well have been a long, lingering, full body hug to humanity. Ni hao.
What is an organization of which you are proud to be a member?
I am proud not to be affiliated with any clubs, organizations, networks, or associations. Though I am considering joining the local beekeeper's association.
What group will you never join?
Any group that sets themselves apart as being somehow more special, determined, important, or enlightened than the rest of the world. I guess that covers of all of them.
What are the simple pleasures of your life?
Watching the stars, watching my bees. Lying in the hammock with my family.
What are your predictions for the future?
In general, predictions are boring. They preclude the elements of chance, choice, call-to-action, or adventure. However, I will say that when we finally run out of oil, the world will be a very different and (I'd like to think) a better, more peaceful place.
What were you in a former life?
Musician. The sit on your country porch kind.
Where's your favorite place to read?
In the hammock, in the sun, in early May or September.
What items are high on your lifelong to-do list?
Help my son grow up.
Get off fossil fuels.
Write a couple more books.
What are your best human qualities?
I have no expectations of, or make any judgments about people or the world. As far as I'm concerned, everyone can just be themselves, and I'll be there to enjoy the diversity.
What's your worst bad habit?
Pulling a test meter out of my back pocket at a party to measure something, then telling people what they should do instead (to be more efficient of course). It's all about measuring energy by the teaspoon, and surprisingly, not everybody cares.
What accomplishment will be listed on your gravestone?
Tried everything he could think of and had as good a time as he could without permanently ruining anything.
What question are you still looking for the answer to?
What happens next?
What frustrates you about America?
First is that our society has reared several generations of people who feel entitled to dominate the world, and ruin other's lives so that they may live in obscene comfort and decadence.
Second is the lack of logic and transparency in elections. We need election reform that ranges from where money comes from and how much, to using a "runoff" system that allows us to pick our top 3 choices in order, without fear of "spoiler" candidates.
Finally, there is so much we could be doing with our resources yet we choose to maintain an insular vision of ourselves within a larger world.
What makes you proud to be an American?
The concept of the Constitution. The notion that everyone stands some chance of success. The availability of information and choices.
An advantage to being American: With our relative freedom and economic power, I get to travel and explore cultures that hopefully make me a better person.
What's the best designed product you can think of?
The Hammer. It's simple, versatile, sturdy, long lasting, requires little skill to use, and you can make one out of almost anything.
What things have stayed the same during your lifetime?
Human resolve to overcome adversity, rebound from oppression, and rise to meet the moment.
What tricks do you do at a cocktail party?
I have no tricks and so must avoid cocktail parties, unless populated by other geeks who can talk numbers and specs and who don't make fun of me when I pull out my test meter and start probing around for energy data.
Who was the best President and why?
George Washington. He didn't want it, but he stepped up to the plate when called to duty and did a pretty good job. It's hard being the first, but then who are people going to compare you to?
What beverage would you do a commercial for?
Martin Brunner's wheat beer. Too bad you can't get it outside of southern Bavaria.
What book is currently on the nightstand?
Not a book, but an essay by former mid-east correspondent Barrie Dunsmore about how we got where we are today in the history of politics, war, and energy.
The symbol for everything right about this country?
When a group of concerned citizens organize to stop some injustice or misguided corporate or political action and make a lasting change for the better.
The symbol for everything wrong about the country?
Corporate influence (on culture and politics) and greed, and the need to fear liability.
"Iíll start tomorrow." How many times have you or someone you know said that about a diet? We know we should do it, we know itís good for us, but we simply donít like change, especially when we think it will hurt. Donít lose another opportunity to save today by waiting until tomorrow!