Why I Will Never Move Back to the United States

Rottin' in Denmark

I left America in 2005. I don’t know when I started telling people that I would never move back, but about two or three years ago, I realized that I meant it.

You know all that shit you hear about Europeans being indolent socialist sponges? It’s fucking Bible true. Europeans work fewer hours every week and get more vacation every year. They are harder to fire, so when their bosses ask them to do unreasonable shit like work on a weekend, they say ‘no’ and the conversation ends.

For a foreigner, integration means becoming just like them. If I ever move back to the States, I would have to find a job where I was paid a wage in exchange for my labor, rather than just my presence. Even if I wanted to move back, I’d be homeless in a matter of weeks.

Biking in Berlin…

View original post 453 more words

There are some difficult decisions to be made on our Twilight Soho Food and Cocktail Tour in London…

There are some difficult decisions to be made on our Twilight Soho Food and Cocktail Tour.

China’s Debt Traps

China’s debt-trap diplomacy is giving the country greater control over developing nations across Asia and Africa, like Angola, Sri Lanka and Djibouti. This is all part of Xi Jinping’s grand strategy to make China the global superpower by 2050.



And that’s the way it is. … Walter Cronkite


Architects Transform 18th-Century Farmhouse Into Self-Sufficient Modern Home

Ruins Studio - Modern Farmhouse by Nathanael Dorent and Lily Jencks

Converting farmhouses into modern dwellings is a trend that is especially prominent in the UK, where historical farms are upgraded via modern barn conversions and updated farm structures. Architects Nathanael Dorent and Lily Jencks worked together to create Ruins Studio, an incredible 18th-century farmhouse overlooking the Scottish countryside. The result is a crisp, modern piece of residential architecture that successfully integrates the structure’s past.

It’s not surprising that Dorent and Jencks won several design awards for the farmhouse, and were shortlisted for the prestigious RIAS/RIBA Award in Scotland. The exterior combines elements of the existing stone structure with a modern pitched roof mimicking what one typically finds on historical Scottish farmhouses. “To build within the walls of a ruin enforces the idea that our contemporary occupation is just another layer to be added to the rich history that every site possesses,” writes Jencks’ studio.

In allowing history to run through the building, the modern touches don’t seem out of place. The interior is highlighted by a curvilinear “tube” system of walls that recall the stone walls of a cave and embrace the occupants of the residence. Original stone masonry breaks up the interior, accenting the different rooms and aiding in the creation of a historical palimpsest. “Openings in the existing ruins walls define the location for windows, which, in turn, form the curves of the interior shell,” explains Jencks. “Seen together these layers are like a geode, each one a surprising opposition to the layer that surrounds it, as if grown over time.”

Running on solar power, the home was designed to be self-sufficient due to its remote location. Large windows allow the homeowners to take in the sweeping views (over 50 miles of pasture) and enjoy living within a piece of history.

Architects Nathanael Dorent and Lily Jencks worked together to convert an 18th-century Scottish farmhouse into a modern dwelling.

Scottish Farmhouse Conversion by Nathanael Dorent and Lily JencksRuins Studio - Modern Farmhouse by Nathanael Dorent and Lily Jencks

They incorporated the structure’s original masonry seamlessly across the interior and exterior, pulling in the farm’s history.

Ruins Studio - Modern Farmhouse by Nathanael Dorent and Lily JencksModern Farmhouse Conversion in Scotland by Nathanael Dorent and Lily JencksScottish Farmhouse ConversionScottish Farmhouse Conversion by Nathanael Dorent and Lily Jencks

Large windows allow occupants to take in the beauty of the Scottish countryside from the comfort of the self-sufficient home.

Modern Farmhouse Conversion in Scotland by Nathanael Dorent and Lily JencksScottish Farmhouse Conversion by Nathanael Dorent and Lily JencksScottish Farmhouse Conversion by Nathanael Dorent and Lily JencksNathanael Dorent: Website | Facebook 
Lily Jencks: Website
h/t: [Colossal]

All images via Sergio Pirrone.



California Passes First Law in the Country to Require Solar Panels on New Homes


Photo: Stonel via Shutterstock

New homes in California are about to become a lot more energy efficient. By a vote of 5-0 from the California Energy Commission (CEC), all homes built from 2020 onward will be required to incorporate solar energy measures. The unanimous vote continues to position California as a leader of legislation to help protect the environment.

The new law will go a long way in helping California meet its lofty goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. It’s a measure embraced on all sides, supported by the California Building Industry Association. The law is the first of its kind in the nation and will require all single-family homes, as well as condos and apartments up to three stories, to include solar panels in order to receive a building permit. Exceptions may be issued for homes shaded by trees or with roofs too narrow to accommodate solar panels.

Safe California Energy estimates that the code change will save Californians $1.7 billion in energy costs over the next 30 years and save homeowners an average of $16,251 over the life of each building. Of course, the measures will add up-front costs to new building construction. CEC estimates an increase of $9,500 in building costs. With California having one of the most expensive housing markets in the United States—the median price of a single-family home reaching about $565,000—some are concerned this increased construction costs will push people out of state.

But, if homeowners and developers are willing to look long-term, the positives appear to outweigh the negatives. “I know from experience that energy-efficient homes sell faster and bring a better price, and data from the Department of Energy backs me up on that,” shares Brandon De Young, executive vice president of De Young Properties, which specializes in energy-efficient construction. “People don’t want to throw money away on wasted energy when they can move into a more efficient, comfortable, and healthy house instead.”

California Energy Efficiency Code

Photo: Climber 1959 via Shutterstock

The code also allows for solar panel installation in communal areas, as well as batteries such as the Tesla Powerwall, for energy storage. Additionally, the law instates new requirements for ventilation and lighting updates for commercial buildings—both measures with an aim to increase energy efficiency.

As the law does not require approval by the Legislature, an updated building code is almost surely on the horizon. It needs final approval by the California Building Standards Commission, but they almost always follow the recommendations of CEC. Other states across the US will undoubtedly be looking to see how the new code performs. Some are skeptical, believing that it would be wiser to invest in large-scale solar farms rather than single homes.

“It is a pretty big stretch to imagine certainly any Southeastern state following suit in the near term, but the technology is getting cheaper and cheaper and the public is starting to clamor for it,” Steve Kalland, executive director of the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center at North Carolina State University told The Wall Street Journal. “In North Carolina, the market is much more oriented toward larger scale solar farms.”

Still, there’s no doubt that all eyes will be on California as it continues to lead the nation in energy efficiency.



How to Handle the Tug-of-War between Working for Money and Idealism

We have idealisms and aspirations. However, we all need a roof over our heads, food on the dinner table, and education for our children (and ourselves). To fulfill all those necessities, we often need to compromise and choose to work for money instead.

Thus, idealisms and aspirations often die over time. Simply because we no longer nurture them. We let them die slowly. We still smile whenever encountering them from time to time, but something within us says that it’s time to “grow up” and forget “childish” idealisms and aspirations.

We become the slave of our routines, which comprise of endless chores and errands. At work, daily workloads become monotonous and boring. At a certain point, life in the suburbs becomes unbearable. Even worse, we label those idealisms and aspirations “childish.”

Now let’s reflect. Is living monotonously days in and days out the only way to live? The answer is an absolute no.

The old Hollywood movie siren Mae West once said, “We only live once. If we do it right, once is enough.” Moreover, I can’t agree more.

Despite what most religions say about the afterlife, which promises a “better life” and a “better place,” we should focus on the 70 to 90 years of limited time on Planet Earth that we have one shot to enjoy. For me, this is the most appropriate way to look at life, which I treasure every single day.

This perspective gives me the courage to live my life according to what I believe and what I truly want out of life. In my case, I’m enjoying my ideal life where I can travel the globe while working remotely as a writer and an online business owner.

With this “one shot to make it right” philosophy, I’m much more compelled to do the best within my limitations. This outlook provides me with energy, determination, perseveration, and willingness to go the extra ten or a hundred miles, not merely “an extra mile.”

It also gives me with the optimism that I can and should reach most, if not all, of my idealisms and aspirations within this lifetime. Translated into simple language: I must manage my time accordingly, so I can work hard and smart, while also having no regrets whatsoever.

The thing is, how have I been doing it and will continue to do it?

First things first, I constantly remind myself that there are two ways that I can make money while keeping my idealisms and aspirations intact. The first way is by keeping both of them separate. You can choose to work for money during the weekdays and keeping your idealisms and hopes during the weekends and holidays.

The second way of making money is by combining the two, which means you make money with your idealisms and aspirations. Either way, you don’t leave those nagging wants on the side. Embrace them fully and expect the fact that it would require advanced time management, some persuasion to people around you, and determination to make things work.

Now, how do you come to terms that you want to make it happen? In other words, do you want to be more than a boring mom (or dad) in the suburbs?

1. Be clear about what you truly want in this lifetime (not in “the next one”).

Write down the “bucket list” of what you truly want to get accomplished in this lifetime. Do it freely without feeling restricted by anything. I call this “free writing” session.

Be free, don’t worry about money, family obligations, work responsibilities, taxes, and other stuff. This is the list of things that you’d do in an ideal situation.

2. Ask yourself honestly and realistically whether that idealism or aspiration is doable at this stage of your life.

Be super honest and very realistic about this, because it takes a stable lifestyle to incorporate something new that might not be in perfect alignment with your current job and other obligations.

For instance, if you’ve just had a new baby, it might not be suitable to start something new. This is a reflective session on your current most realistic situation.

3. Once you’re truly convinced, persuade your family to support your intention.

After considering ideal aspirations and the most realistic situations, you’d be convinced to act or not to act. In the best scenario, you’re ready to fulfill your dreams. Also, it means you’ll need the blessing, approval, and support from your loved ones.

Why? Because you might probably need to use more time for yourself (and that idealism you’re pursuing) instead of spending it with them. Persuade them with love and kindness. Make them understand that it’s important to you and you’d be happy to support their idealisms and aspirations too, when the time comes.

4. If you choose to keep work and idealisms-and-aspirations separate, manage your time well.

In this first scenario, you’re keeping both work and idealisms-and-aspirations separate, so all you need now is good time management. At this point, you probably have received a blessing, full approval, and heartfelt support from the family.

Allocate your time well, so you can do well in work, relationships, and whatever it is you’ve just put your heart and mind into. Today, there are plenty online tools and apps ready to help.

5. If you choose to combine the two, inventory the required skills, people connections, and other social capitals you’d need to acquire before you can realize that specific idealism or aspiration.

In this particular scenario, you’re mixing making a living with the aspiration you’ve been longing for years. Congratulations. This choice requires the most sacrifice from yourself and your loved ones, particularly when you’re in the training and apprenticeship mode.

When you’ve just resigned from your current job or ended your current business to pursue your idealistic aspiration, you might stop earning and provide for your family. This may require some other cash flow arrangement, such as having your spouse to be the temporary breadwinner while you’re in training. And it might need time to build your skills to be able to earn sufficiently again. During that period, your family’s support will be tremendously helpful.

In conclusion, idealistic and aspirational wants and wishes can complement realistic situations as long as you have the peace of mind. Moreover, this state of mind can be provided by your loved ones’ blessing, approval, and support. Once you’re convinced that it’s the time to get real about aspirations, you can start right away.

After all, we only live once. If we do it right, once is enough. We only have this lifetime to live with no regrets. Yes, only one lifetime.[]

About the Author

Jennifer Xue

Jennifer Xue is an award-winning author, columnist, and serial entrepreneur based in Northern California. She is a digital strategist for Oberlo. She is the author of White Paper Writing for Business (BookBoon, 2016) and Guide to Become a Management Consultant (FabJob, 2003). Her works have been published in Forbes, Fortune, Esquire, Cosmopolitan, Business.com, Business2Community, Good Men Project, Addicted2Success, Positively Positive, and others.

Image Source: Deposit Photos



France Is Going to Ban Stores From Throwing Away Unsold Clothing

France Clothing Waste Law Sustainability

France has been ahead of the eco-friendly curve for years. From a solar-powered road to upcycled installations, the country has continuously found creative ways to make environmentalism its mission. Following in the footsteps of a 2015 food waste law, the French government has turned its attention to textiles, making it illegal for retailers to throw away unsold clothing.

In the past, French clothing stores would typically discard any leftover apparel. Before being thrown away, these perfectly good pieces of clothing were often defaced in an attempt to deter dumpster scavenging, culminating in four million tons of unwearable, wasted clothes. Thanks to this new law, however, stores will now be required to donate any unsold articles of clothing to charity—a move that will eliminate unnecessary refuse while also helping those in need.

For months, this initiative has been a priority for Emmaus—a Paris-based organization focused on ending homelessness. In February, a Facebook photo depicting destroyed clothing went viral, causing public outcry and bringing the issue to Emmaus’ attention. Since then, the charity has worked tirelessly to fix the problem, which French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe has vowed to tackle with this new law in 2019. “For the time being, there are no specific indications,” Emmaus’ Deputy Director Valérie Fayard explains. “It’s a preliminary road map, but it’s good news.”

In an effort to prevent clothing waste, France will ban retailers from throwing away unsold apparel next year.

France Clothing Waste Law Sustainability

h/t: [Green Matters]



He waited and waited

He had waited and waited for the ‘right” moment… When he was finally ready to move forward with his lifelong dream, his health began to fail.