Skip to main content

Here to speak the truth, change the world, and translate the world's chaos into common sense.
(Cultural anthropologist, singer/songwriter, yoga instructor, educator, and, of course, writer.)

Doorknocking and Solar Sales: Observations of an Anthropologist

6 min read



Solar Energy

Recently I've made a huge career change. My previous job was working for a non-profit that provided steady pay and hours and some meager heath benefits. Unfortunately, the energy output needed to do a good job didn't match the pay -at all- and I was exhausted by what it required. (Sure, I guess you could say  I could've just done a mediocre job, but that's not my style). So, I took a great leap of faith and ended up in the solar industry as a sales rep/energy consultant. The catch? I generate my own leads... by knocking on doors. 

Yep. Pick a spot, pick a time, start knocking and hope for the best.

They keep saying, "It's a numbers game". I suppose I believe that, but it's a bit oversimplified. What people mean when they say that is: "Keep knocking until a door opens for you; inevitably, if you knock enough doors, one will open."

I'd like to add a little perspective to that, with direct reference to the solar energy market in California.

Time of Day: It seems to me that the best hours to knock are between 4pm and 6:30pm. I can usually knock on about 40-60 doors during that time, talk to at least 15-20 people and get at least 2 people to be interested in me running an estimate for them (I give quotes for home owners interested in switching to solar energy, and lowering their utilities overall). I also knock from 10am until 1pm, and sometimes get people who aren't normally home at night, but my overall numbers are greater during the evening (on average).

However, I will say that Daylight Savings Time has screwed that up for me. Before a few weeks ago, I could knock until 7pm easily. The sun set right before that and it wasn't too dark or cold. Now, I have to quit around 6pm (although I push it to 6:30pm if I'm feeling safe and/or lucky in that neighborhood).

The obstacles: walking in pitch black (some neighborhoods don't have street lamps and I can't see where I'm going, don't feel safe, neighbors are less likely to trust someone walking in the dark, and I can't see street-signs to find my way back to my care easily).

The interesting thing, I've noticed, is that people who felt comfortable talking to someone knocking on their door at 6pm when the sun was only just setting suddenly are very suspicious -just because it's now totally dark. If they aren't worried about themselves, they urgently command me to leave for my own safety. "You need to get to your car. It isn't safe out here!" It doesn't seem to matter how nice or dilapidated the neighborhood is, the warning is always the same.

Google Earth

Location: Google Earth and Knocking Apps are your friend, although they don't tell you everything.

Checking out the aerial specs is going to give you  basic idea of the neighborhood. For example, if you see there's solar panels installed in the area, there's probably a viable need for it. Alternatively, there are some places that weren't approved for solar financing until recently (like newly developed housing projects). What matters most is knowing what kind of client you are looking for. I'm looking for houses that have pools (the cost of heating them is a considerable chunk of your bill). I look for roofs that have South-facing roofs with sun-exposure (not too many trees blocking the sunlight).

Knocking Apps are going to give you the names from Public Record lists of home-owners, and sometimes they even include soft credit checks; Unfortunately, it doesn't always update and I've knocked on a door where I end up asking for someone who has 1) died within the last year (or more), or 2) the divorced member of the party living there, causing an immediate sour taste in the home owners mouth because I brough up their ex.


Tract housing: Good sun exposure, but is it a good choice for solar if they have good insulation and up to date appliances and HVAC system?

Strategy: Size of homes, 

Big houses = big bills .... unless they are really new and have awesome insulation/up-to-date LED bulbs/efficient HVAC system

Smaller, slightly-run down houses: don't overlook them or the poorer neighborhoods. More than likely, the home owners want to upgrade their home but they haven't been able to manage their bills. Help them get one of their bills under control by getting them financed for solar. Bonus = HERO and PACE programs offer financing specifically for energy efficient home investments, including solar, astro-turf, insulation, LED lightbulbs, and....(this is a big one, especially if clients are considering solar) a new roof!

Pools = $$$     If a house has a pool, there's  good chance a lot of the bill is going towards heating it. There are actually ways to use heating pads on your roof to heat the pool, but an even better option is the 2-in-1 pool heating pads AND solar panels. The pads lay on the back of the solar panels, and take up less space on roof while offsetting the electrical usage for your pool and your home utilities.

Some companies, like Mozilla, have the concept of ethics wired into their company culture. Unfortunately, many others do not -especially greedy individuals in it for a quick buck.


Ethics and Job Outlook: As a sales veteran advised me once, "Have fun with it! Sell something you believe in, and get excited about helping others!" 

I cannot sell something to people I don't know if I wouldn't sell it to my own friends and family. I've sold to my parents and to my friends, and I don't regret it. They got a good deal and it helps them out, plus it helps the environment. I think that everyone should consider this approach. 

Why? Because you need to think about the long-term. Sure, if you sell someone this sub-par deal where you make a huge profit but they end up hoodwinked, you'll be excited about the money you just made for now. But how many referrals are you going to get? How will you grow your clientele? Will you be able to continue in sales when people start to figure out you can't be trusted? That, my friend, is called "losing face" and is considered to be one of the worst things possible not only in business, but in several cultures (Japan, Korea and China, for example, value saving-face and they are heavy-hitters in international trade). That mentality of "making a quick buck" can be detrimental to not only your career, but to your life if it comprimises your future. In anthropology, we call it the Poverty Mentality, where a person can't think beyond a day or a week. They live for now, and scrounge to make a living because in their minds, the future is uncertain and not worth investing in. 

Finally, I must  say something about door knocking in general, but I think this post has gotten too long. I'll leave that for my next post. 

I hope if you have any questions about what to look for in solar, you'll feel free to comment below. I'll try to get back to you and advise you on what to look for and how to know if you're getting cheated!

Goodnight for now.

Internet Resilience: Discussions, Brainstorms and Plans for Web Communication and Web Security

2 min read


Social WebAs many know, evolution and change comes from external pressures.

There are two distinct external pressures for the plan we are working on: The DDoS attack on Oct 21st and potential dangers of free speech and communication in the US. 

The problem we address: What happens if the internet goes down/isn't secure? How do we function w/out it? How do we ensure freedom of speech survives... that a history of records and data remains available... and that international communication is available without aggressive force or retaliation from gov't?

The answer is not simple, and there will not be only one solution but many. To have only one defense still allows for weakness, and weak points in our internet platforms is exactly what we are looking at now. To have one offense, is also, inefficient.

We aim to support each other, through vetted international networks, during this uncertain time, and we have focused especially on ways we can still use the internet as a communication tool for fact-checked truths, news, information, calls for help and action, and social mobilization.

Looking back on history, we seek to deter the mistakes our ancestors have made and also to predict the next steps those in power will take based on what we've already seen happen in other parts of the world: after all, humans are more or less predictable.

The product of these talks that are happening now in cities around the country, in private web channels around the world, are still yet to be determined. We do, however, have some solutions and I'll be bringing those to the web (in some form) and privately at in-person events in December and January. 

If you want to be part of this discussion and contribute, please comment and/or message me.

Good luck and be diligent in your growth.

Portable Planetarium: Science Hackathon Project (Reblog from old website)

8 min read

Portable Planetarium: Science Hackathon Project

Posted on November 8, 2015 by BrynLove


Star gazing can be done from any room with the Portable Planetarium...

… Star gazing can be done from any room with the Portable Planetarium…


There is a certain awe cultivated when gazing at a star filled sky. I always imagine it as a biological impulse, something deep in our DNA, that makes our heartbeat change, that deepens our breath as a gasp catches in our throat; our eyes widen, pupils dilate and we begin to take stock of our size and place in this cosmic spacescape. Perhaps it was the sky that inspired our ancestors to consider their origins in this world, perhaps during late nights by campfire the stars above became guiding beacons of hope, reasons to dream, reasons to search for what lies beyond. Countless art and poetry, songs and stories of the stars have enriched each culture in human history. We had amazing astronomers, navigators, philosophers, seers, and even wise elders that understood the passing of time and seasons… all because of their nightly exposure to a clear sky of slightly changing stars.

Today the densest populations of people rely on well-lit electric and gas powered cities. Cities with lots of carbon emissions leading to light pollution block out the beauty of the sky. When we get awed by lights, it’s likely from the Vegas Strip, or some electrical carnival at BurningMan. Rarely do we get to see the stars, and unfortunately where they are most easily viewed is at isolated, wild campground sites and many people nowadays don’t grow up with that kind of past-time. Sadly, even those that do have to deal with one fact: it takes time and travel to get to those spots. Cut off from the spiraling, spinning galaxies around us, it’s also easy to disconnect from our place in the universe. We easily are absorbed into the world we see; a world limited to this earth, this pale blue dot. Neil DeGrasse Tyson once commented on some people’s sad self-projection of smallness, a response of overwhelming insignificance when faced with how vast the universe really is when viewing the stars, that seeing all that “out there” makes them feel small. He responded with how the universe made him feel.

“I look up at the night sky, and I know that, yes, we are part of this Universe, we are in this Universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the Universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up—many people feel small, because they’re small and the Universe is big, but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars.” – Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

What if simply seeing the stars made us feel like adventurers? What if exploring this galaxy made us united as humans, not under one God or even under one sky, but within this solar system, this galaxy? What if wonder itself was part of the key to innovation, passion, and the future?

Yes, the stars are hidden from us citydwellers when we walk outside. But what if we could create that magical and awe-inspiring phenomena of stargazing to somewhere as intimate as the home or as common as the classroom? These very ideas are what inspired the construction of one of the easiest Do It Yourself projects at last week’s Science Day Hackathon hosted by GitHub and supported by many awesome volunteers.  (Photos here, credit Matt Biddulph: )


Tantek Çelik andEddie Codel brainstorming the Portable Planetarium idea. Photo by Matt Biddulph

Tantek Çelik andEddie Codel brainstorming the Portable Planetarium idea

So you want to create your own Portable Planetarium? I approve! Let’s do it!

Stuff you need:

  • Pico Projector

  • Fish Eye lens

  • Stellarium

  • Smart phone or computer (cost ranges)

  • Scrap cardboard (just any good box laying about will do)

  • Duct tape (you know, the type you use to tape bad guys mouths shut with)

  • A sharp cutting object (I used a ‘Cutter’ tool. You should probably stick with whatever is sharp and safe for you to use. If you are accident prone, ask for someone else’s help/supervision)

  • A cutting board (Just like a wooden one for dicing your veggies)

  • Measuring tape

  • Sharpie/pen


  1. Projector

  2. Measuring tape

  3. Fish eye lens

  4. *A friend (suggested)

Let’s not assume you have the same setup as I did. What you’ll need to do is find a dark room with minimal/no outside light and shut all doors and windows. Then you want to take the projector, turn it on. Make sure you can see the display lit up on the ceiling. Now, with the lights off you should hold the lens above the projector until it is clear and the picture looks good. Use the measuring tape (this is where a friend is quite helpful) to measure the distance between the lens and the top of the projector, where the light is coming from. This distance isn’t likely to change and you’ll use it later in your dimensions.


  1. Cardboard

  2. Cutting tool

Take the cardboard and cut out a very long rectangular piece of it. I used about 3 x 2 ft strip initially and trimmed it down later. Then begin to bend it vertically into 1″ slats.

Bending cardboard into slats

Bending cardboard into slats


  1. Cardboard spare piece

  2. Fish Eye lens

  3. pen/sharpie

  4. Measuring tape

  5. Cutting board

Measure the diameter of the lens. Make sure to measure only the inner rim of the lens. Then use spare cardboard and cut out a square or octagon (your choice) that is at least 2″ wider in diameter to that. (Cutting on the cutting board minimizes mistakes and injury).The lens I used was about 3″, so my mounting piece was about 5″ in diameter. Then draw a line around the edge of the lens and cut out a hole for it to be mounted on.





  1. Duct tape

  2. Slatted cardboard

  3. Fish Eye lens

Begin to wrap the slatted cardboard in on itself (kind of like a spiral). You’re going to make one small ring on the inside that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the lens. Use duct tape to secure this in place. Secondly, take the rest of the cardboard and use it as an outer ring for more balance.





  1. Cutting tool

  2. Measurements taken previously (length of lens to projector)

  3. Pen/Sharpie

  4. Pico Projector

Use the measurements taken previously and mark how far down away from the top of the cardboard tower that the pico projector is going to have to be. Keep in mind that the lens is going at the top, and the projector is going to be embedded within. *It’s important to level out the top and the bottom at this point so your measurements are accurate. Then, when you have found where the projector should go, place it at the location against the outside of the cardboard and draw an outline of the frame. Cut out the frame and make adjustments until the projector fits inside firmly (not loosely). *Hint: it’s okay to cut it too small at first, and then adjust to a larger size later. You want the projector to fit snugly inside the window you’re creating to minimize light leakage.




  1. Pico projector

  2. Cardboard tower

  3. Fish Eye lens

  4. Cardboard mounting bracket for lens

Put all the pieces together and test out the light in a dark room. Make adjustments as necessary by refitting and cutting the cardboard so it works. I used duct tape to level out the top and make it more secure. Get creative with this part as it is fairly individual.




A DIY Portable Planetairum

A DIY Portable Planetairum


  1. Stellarium

  2. Your new portable projector (cardboard tower + Fish Eye lens + pico projector)

  3. Phone or computer to run the Stellarium program on

Download Stellarium to your phone or computer, hook up the video feed to the pico projector, turn off the lights, and enjoy exploring the universe!!


Let me know how this project helped you and any improvements you made. Hope you get to experience how awesome this is too!


Photo by Matt Biddulph

Helpful link on how to use the Stellarium program:

My favorite quote with awesome visuals by Neil DeGrasse Tyson:





Science Hackathon 2015 at GitHub (Reblog from old website)

4 min read

Science Hackathon 2015 at GitHub

Posted on November 2, 2015 by BrynLove

SciHack Day Portabl

Tantek, Eddie and I are pointing to the cosmos

It isn’t every day that I get to put myself in a new situation. I’ve learned that sometimes being an adult means monotony. It means holding a steady job and maintaining a routine. Those aren’t the moments that give life meaning, though. I think most people can agree that moments that test you, that change you, expand or rearrange your thinking… those come from trying something new, and that usually includes a new experience or place.

So, when a new friend from GitHub who’d seen that I’d driven all the way from SF to Pasadena just to attend JPL’s open house (it was crammed, I tell you!), he tipped me off to this event: The Science Hackathon 2015.

I was immediately excited. It sounded so fun that both I and my fiancé signed up. Then I got there, and it didn’t take long to get a little…overwhelmed.

There were so many different projects going on, and surely my talents and my personality could contribute to one, right? However, as I went around the room I felt less and less certain of my usefulness. I suppose someone like me, raised an artist and musician without any real science background, would feel like I did. I regarded the countless engineers, programmers, and scientists collaborating. How could I possibly keep up? I began to feel down. I knew that this was my self-consciousness getting the best of me, but it’s hard when you’ve thrown yourself into a new situation. It felt a bit like when a parent throws a child into the water who can’t swim…you sort of thrash about for a bit, then decide whether to sink or swim.

Luckily, I got rescued by two awesome chaps who already had an idea for a Portable Planetarium (instructuble to come later). After getting the general idea, i set to making a cheap, easy-to-make design out of scrap cardboard and duct tape. I saw what the planetarium could do; it could transform a normal cieling into a wondrous sky full of stars, planets, satellites, moons… it could help anyone within range of it access a space ship of their very own to explore the great, beautiful cosmos! I wanted this to be so easy anyone could do it. I spent most of the evening and night making it work, and then finished up in the morning. Then, after all the projects were entered and presented, there was a vote on which ones got awards. (A bit of positive reinforcement, I guess you could say!) Then the strangest thing happened; our team got the “Best in Hardware” award. Cardboard, a fish-eye lens, a pico projector, and the Stellarium software.

What? I got an award? For science? Well… I’ve never gotten anything for science. I’ve never got an award or recognition for anything outside of music and anthropology.

Then it hit me. The great beauty of all of this is that you never know what you have to offer until you give yourself a chance to try. The Science Hackathon was so inspiring; people coming together to create something funny, useful, or amazing. Collaborators without the incentive of money, without the restriction of titles or class, they created together purely for the passion of creating. Their incentive was pure social capital, an ability to try things new with new people, to feel that they spent their time meaningfully and at their own volition. Imagine! People working hard all night to accomplish something…for free!

It wasn’t too long ago that I was listening to a TED talk on NPR that talked about how sales goals are never good incentive, how a paycheck isn’t inspiration to do well or work hard (it’s only inspiration to work hard enough to not lose your job). The real incentive, the push that gets people making amazing things? Meaning. If work is meaningful to that person, they will give their best; they will overcome obstacles, they will tirelessly meet their goals, and -most importantly- they will do it and feel happier afterwards.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to feel useful, to do something meaningful, to connect with smart people, and -yes- to feel just a wee bit smart in a room full of geniuses.



Hello World! Here's the first status update: Switched from WordPress to Known. Let's see how this goes!