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Avi Solomon

Avi Solomon is a Technical Writer & Gardener

Making the Book Talismanic: An Interview with Robert Ansell

Robert Ansell is the Director of Fulgur Press, which has published the work of esoteric artists for 20 years.

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Design Thinking for Social Good: An Interview with David Kelley

David Kelley is the founder of IDEO and the Stanford d.school

David Kelley shares the IDEO Design Process

Avi Solomon: Were the seeds of your future career planted in your childhood?

David Kelley: I don't know, I feel I was just a lucky kid. So many kids are not allowed to flourish their creativity. But I was the kind of kid that would take apart the family piano. I can remember I had a perfectly good bicycle I got for Christmas and a few days later I had sandblasted it and painted it a different color. Not that my parents understood why I was always ripping things apart and redesigning them but I was certainly tolerated. So I think it did contribute in a lot of ways. I wish for a lot of other kids that they could tinker like I did.

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Searching for Magic in India and Silicon Valley: An Interview with Daniel Kottke, Apple Employee #12


Daniel Kottke lives and works in Palo Alto, Ca. Here, he talks about the genesis of his 1974 trip to India with Steve Jobs.

Daniel Kottke was one of Apple's first employees, assembling the company's earliest kit computers with Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs in a California kitchen. In 1974, Jobs and Kottke backpacked across India in search of themselves; now, they are industry legends. Along the way, he debugged circuit boards, helped design the Apple III and the Mac, and became host of Palo Alto cable TV show The Next Step.

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The Butterflies of India: An interview with Isaac Kehimkar

Isaac Kehimkar is an avid naturalist and the author of The Book of Indian Butterflies Isaac's photostream of Indian Butterflies is at Flickr.

Avi Solomon: What early influences drew you to the study of nature?

Isaac Kehimkar: I grew up in Deonar, a suburb of Mumbai. It was a time when black and white television had just started in India with only one channel and no video games in sight. But Nature offered so many options. Deonar was still green and water in the streams was sparkling clean. The Monsoons were my season and catching fish and crabs with local Koli and Agri boys in the rice fields was my favorite pastime. That's the time I even dared (rather foolishly) to catch snakes too! With the rains gone and rice harvested, cricket pitches were soon paved in the rice fields and we played cricket till the rains came again.

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Making Shelter Simple: An Interview with Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn is the editor-in-chief of Shelter Publications. His latest book is Tiny Homes: Scaling Back in the 21st Century.

Avi Solomon: What do you see in your childhood that pointed you onto the path that your life took?

Lloyd Kahn: When I was a kid I had a little workbench with holes in it, and the holes were square or round or triangular. And you had to pick the right little piece of wood block and hammer it in with a little wooden hammer. And so I'd hammer with it, put the round dowel into the round hole, and hammer it through. And then maybe the most formative thing was when I was twelve - I helped my dad build a house. It had a concrete slab floor, and concrete block walls. And my job was shoveling sand and gravel and cement into the concrete mixer for quite a while. We'd go up there and work on weekends. One day we got the walls all finished, and we were putting a roof on the carport, and I got to go up on the roof. They gave me a canvas carpenter's belt, a hammer and nails, and I got to nail down the 1" sheeting. And I still remember that, kneeling on the roof nailing, the smell of wood on a sunny day. And then I worked as a carpenter when I was in college, on the docks. I just always loved doing stuff with my hands.

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Such a Long Journey - An Interview with Kevin Kelly

Photo: Michelle Gray

Kevin Kelly is a senior maverick for Wired magazine. Avi interviewed Kevin at his home in Pacifica.

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Game Design with Kids: An Interview with Charley Miller

Charley Miller is a game designer and producer based in New York City.

Avi Solomon: Tell us a bit about yourself.

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The Grammar of Happiness: An Interview with Daniel Everett

Daniel L. Everett is Dean of Arts and Sciences at Bentley University. He is the author of Language: The Cultural Tool and the subject of the documentary A Grammar of Happiness.

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Working Undercover in a Slaughterhouse: an interview with Timothy Pachirat

Timothy Pachirat, Assistant Professor of Politics at The New School for Social Research and the author of Every Twelve Seconds, is not the first to see industrialized violence and political analogues in the slaughterhouse. But rather than write an exposé, he took a job at one to see how it works from the perspective of those who work there. I interviewed him about his experiences on the kill floor.

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The Botany of Bible Lands: An Interview with Prof. Avinoam Danin

Avinoam Danin is Professor Emeritus of Botany in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He curates Flora of Israel Online. His latest book is Botany of the Shroud: The Story of Floral Images on the Shroud of Turin.

Avi Solomon: What first sparked your lifelong fascination with botany?

Avinoam Danin: My parents told me that when I was 3 years old I always said "Look father, I found a flower". My grandparents gave me the book "Analytical Flora of Palestine" on my 13 birthday - I checked off every plant I determined in the book's index of plant names.

Avi: How did you get to know the flora of Israel so intimately?

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Filmmaking in Bollywood's Shadow: An Interview with Jaideep Varma

Jaideep Varma is an author, filmmaker and professional cricket analyst working in India.

Avi Solomon

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Jaideep Varma

I was in advertising for 12 years as a copywriter, then gave it up in 2000 to be a full-time writer. I published a novel, Local, in 2005. I directed a feature film, Hulla, which was released in 2008, and a full-length documentary feature film called Leaving Home - the Life & Music of Indian Ocean, which was released in 2010 and won the National Film Award this year. I also, purely accidentally, invented a statistical system in cricket called Impact Index, which is what I am running and co-developing full-time currently.

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Robert Sapolsky on Stress: An Interview


Prof. Robert Sapolsky on Coping with Stress (Audio link) Photo Courtesy of Indiana University

Robert Sapolsky is a Professor of Biological Sciences and Neurology at Stanford University. He is the author of A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among the Baboons.

Avi Solomon:

What event or person influenced your decision to study Primatology?

Robert Sapolsky:

Reading The Year of the Gorilla, by George Schaller, when I was in middle school. Schaller was the first person to do field work with gorillas (long before Dian Fossey). I had a vague sense of wanting to do primatology before that (sufficiently so to be reading the book), but that book cemented it.

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Eyal Ophir on the Science of Multitasking

Photo: Eyal Ophir with his daughter Sahar, courtesy of the subject.

Eyal Ophir was primary researcher on the pioneering Stanford Multitasking study. He now designs information interfaces for the browser RockMelt.

Avi Solomon

How did you get to studying multitasking at Stanford?

Eyal Ophir

While I was at Stanford, Cliff Nass (my advisor, and a global expert on human-computer interaction) introduced me to some great ethnographic work done by Ulla Foehr and Donald Roberts at the Dept. of Communication looking at media consumption among youth. They saw that young people were reporting more media-use hours than actual hours, and figured out these same young people must be consuming multiple streams of media simultaneously in order to fit it all in. This is where I was introduced to the concept of Media Multitasking. I came from a cognitive psychology background, and I was inspired by Anthony Wagner's work on memory and cognitive control (Anthony was my reference for all things cognitive, and ended up being the third author on the paper). So for me, the interesting question was simply how these kids are managing to process and control so much information all at once.

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Interview with a Stoic: William O. Stephens

William O. Stephens is Professor of Philosophy and of Classical & Near Eastern Studies at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. He plays tennis and chess, is a vegetarian, and tries to be Stoic about being a big Chicago Cubs fan.

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Interview with a Maker: Jack Zylkin, USB Typewriter Guy

Jack Zylkin created the USB Typewriter. I interviewed him about his creation, the response he's received, and why people are so interested in "the muggle magic of gears and pulleys and solenoids."

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An interview with David Eagleman, neuroscientist


Photo: Poptech

David Eagleman is a neuroscientist and author.

Avi Solomon

What fascinates you about the nature of time?

David Eagleman

We all go through life assuming that time is an external river that flows past us. But experiments in my laboratory over the past decade have shown that this is not precisely the case. Time is an active construction of the brain. We can set up simple experiments to make you believe that a flashed image lasted longer or shorter than it actually did, or that a burst of light happened before you pressed a button (even though you actually caused it with the button), or that a sound is beeping at a faster or slower rate than it actually is, and so on. Time is a rubbery thing.

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An interview with William Powers, author of Hamlet's Blackberry


Photo: Anne Ghory-Goodman

William Powers is the author of Hamlet’s BlackBerry.

Avi Solomon

First of all, I understand why you're having all these interviews because I think you've really touched on a sensitive issue for a lot of people, of being connected all the time.

William Powers

I've realized that it is sensitive, Avi, but I think we're only at the beginning of people recognizing it. People like you are the cutting edge of something and I'm not sure what it is, but there's some kind of dawning realization happening out there. It's fascinating to see it kind of blossom and I think that it's really just the start of something actually quite wonderful because I think we're going to wind up being a lot smarter about these digital tools.

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Bookbinding in the Digital Age: an interview with Michael Greer

Michael Greer is a Bookbinder. I interviewed him to find out more about his unusual profession and his recent creation, the binary Genesis.

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Interview: Apollo astronaut Al Worden

Col. Al Worden, an Engineer and Apollo 15 CMP, talk about the back side of the moon, the universe, and everything.

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Interview: Laird Scranton

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Laird Scranton is an independent software developer from Albany, New York. He is the author of several books and articles on African and Egyptian mythology and language.

Avi Solomon: Who are the Dogon?

Laird Scranton: The Dogon are a modern-day African tribe from Mali who seem to observe many interesting ancient traditions. In fact, their culture can be seen as a kind of cross-roads for several important ancient traditions. As just a few examples, they wear skull caps and prayer shawls, circumcise their young, and celebrate a Jubilee Year like ancient Jews, they observe the same calendars and establish their villages and districts in pairs called "Upper" and "Lower" like ancient Egypt, and they preserve a detailed cosmology that bears close resemblance to Buddhism, only expressed using ancient Egyptian terms.

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Interview: Erik Knutzen

Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen grow food, keep chickens, brew, bike, bake, and plot revolution from their 1/12-acre farm in the heart of Los Angeles.

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Interview: Dennis McKenna

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Dr. Dennis McKenna has conducted research in ethnopharmacology for over 30 years. He currently teaches in the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota. Avi Solomon: Tell us a bit about yourself Dennis McKenna: I'm 60 years old, born in Paonia Colorado, a small town in Western Colorado in 1950. I experienced my teenage years in the turbulent 60's, but had a fairly normal life in my early years. I shared many interests with my brother Terence, and while growing up we were both 'nerds' (though the word hadn't been invented yet), meaning that we were more interested in science and science fiction than athletics or other 'normal' teenage interests. We were butterfly and amateur rock collectors; amateur rocketeers, and that kind of thing. My dad encouraged and supported this kind of thing. So that was an early influence; curiosity about the world which our parents encouraged. Then the 60's came along and we were well-primed for it. Largely due to our early exposure to science fiction and my father's occasional purchases of Fate magazine, we were open to the idea of paranormal experiences, UFOs, the occult, other dimensions, altered states, aliens, and all of that. So when psychedelics came along, naturally we were fascinated by them, though we knew little about them at the time. And in the early to mid-60's they didn't have the social stigma attached to them that they acquired later.

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Interview: Tom Hulme

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Tom Hulme is a Design Director at IDEO

Avi: How do you define yourself?

Tom: An enthusiastic generalist. Lucky. Ultimately I hope it will be the stuff around me that defines me - startups, OpenIDEO, IDEO projects, family and friends...

Avi: What does Design mean to you?

Tom: It's thoughtful and passionate creation, in any medium. A considered approach to creating solutions that solve real human needs - as such I truly believe everyone has the capacity to be a designer... I guess I would say that as I have no formal design training!

Avi: How would you characterize IDEO?

Tom: IDEO is a function of its people - a diverse group united by a desire to have positive impact. We have developed various approaches to increase that impact: a truly human-centered approach (we centered on human needs even when working in business to business projects), diverse teams (we have learnt that this sparks creativity) and a increased emphasis on designing business models. I'm looking forward to seeing new approaches emerge too...

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Interview: Ran Prieur

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Ran Prieur is a writer and permaculturist

Avi Solomon: Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Ran Prieur: I am known on the Internet as somebody who writes about dropping out of society, the critique of civilization, sustainability and the collapse. I'm a softcore doomer. I write about why this entire society is unbalanced and a large mistake and why the mistake is ending and how you can, how we can get out of it. How we can live better.

Avi: Who has influenced you the most?

Ran: I always tell people my two biggest influences are Ivan Illich and Charles Fort. Everything I write can be derived from those two guys. Ivan Illich wrote his most famous stuff in the early 70s. He was a big critic of industrialization and centralization and certain kinds of technology.

Ivan Illich was not a primitivist. He thinks that technology can be used very well and can be used to live much better than primitive people but it mostly has not yet been used that way. Ivan Illich was so smart and wrote so clearly that reading him is like looking at the sun. You just read a couple of sentences and then you're like, "Wow! I have to look away, that's too much", and you kind of process those sentences and you go back and read a little more.

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Interview: Tim Ferriss

Photo: Olivier Ezratty (cc)

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Tim Ferriss is the author of the The 4-Hour Workweek, a Japanophile, tea drinker, tango world record holder, and language learning fanatic.

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Interview: Seth Godin

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Seth Godin writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything.

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Interview: Richard Koch, author of The 80/20 Principle

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Richard Koch is a businessman and author of the international best seller The 80/20 Principle.

Avi Solomon: Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Richard Koch: I have a very pleasant life and spend most days in the sun, switching between my homes in Cape Town and 'Iberia' (Gibraltar, Spain, Portugal) according to the season. Most days involve a few hours writing, playing tennis, cycling, hiking, walking the dog, gym, reading, and seeing friends for dinner. I try to do only things that I'm interested in, enjoy, and may help other people. Most people would say I'm rich, but I don't spend a lot of money, I drive cars that are years old, and I hate shopping except for food, wine, and books. My sole extravagances are travel and my homes - and sometimes betting, which fascinates me. Apart from that, I lead a simple life. I adore eating out with friends but never go to expensive restaurants. I have a partner and a brown Labrador called Tocker, and I love both of them too.

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Interview: Brian "Ziggy" Liloia on How to build your own Hobbit House

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Brian "Ziggy" Liloia is a 26 year old member of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, where he lives in his own handbuilt cob house, tends large gardens with friends, builds with natural materials, keeps bees, makes cheese and butter, blogs, and strives to live the good life. He is the author of "The Year of Mud: Building a Cob House"

Avi Solomon: Tell us a bit about yourself

Brian Liloia I grew up in the hyper-suburbs of northern New Jersey, in the shadows of New York City. In college, I learned what a huge mess civilization was making of the planet, and I realized, over the course of several years and through reading lots and lots of stuff about environmental and social issues, that I wouldn't be satisfied with a conventional kind of lifestyle. I was never excited about a mainstream career, or living in the city or suburbs, and now I had a better explanation for my lack of enthusiasm. I found out about Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage as a senior in college and immediately thought I would find myself moving there, or someplace similar, in the future. I visited less than a month after graduating, and realized that I didn't want to wait: I wanted to live a sustainable kind of life in a community setting as soon as possible. In order to learn how to live more ecologically and to provide more for myself, including my own food, shelter, and energy, I settled into Dancing Rabbit in 2007, a year after college graduation.

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Interview: Dr. Rick Strassman

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Psychiatrist Dr. Rick Strassman was the first scientist to conduct U.S. government-approved human research into hallucinogens and psychedelic drugs after the so-called War on Drugs. He has published dozens of peer-reviewed papers and is the author of DMT: The Spirit Molecule

Avi Solomon: Tell us a bit about yourself?

Dr. Rick Strassman: I was born and raised in southern California in the 1950s and 1960s, and attended college on the West Coast. I grew up in a Conservative Jewish home, and went through my bar mitzvah ritual. I obtained my MD in New York City, and returned to California for psychiatry training as well as for a fellowship in clinical research. I worked at the University of New Mexico for 11 years where I performed the DMT studies. I then moved to Canada and the Pacific Northwest for 5 years before returning to New Mexico in 2000. After finishing my DMT project in 1995, I worked in clinical psychiatry until 3 years ago. I've since then been writing full-time.

Avi: What got you into studying DMT?

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Ted Chiang on Writing

Avi: Could you introduce yourself?

Ted: My name is Ted Chiang. I’m a science fiction short story writer.

Were there any formative experiences that led you to become a
science fiction writer?

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