Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Farewell to Dirt

Chino Valley/Jerome AZ. Autumn's warmth is disappearing quickly. I must head south. But I want one last hike in some things I really hate to give up: grass, honest-to-goodness soil, ponderosas, and oaks. 

Feeling a bit weepy and nostalgic, we went on our "last" hike before skedaddling south to the lower elevations. In fact I become a weepy sap every autumn, just before I migrate south. A carpet of small oak leaves on the trail reminded me of how fond I've always been of oak trees, leaves, and wood. We were hiking in the midst of some no-name hills; volcanic knolls actually. The rocks were sharp, dog-paw destroyers, but there was enough soil and grass to keep the dogs happy.

It was only a short hike, but steep. I never cease to be amazed at how little you have to climb before everything looks different. Our hiking club specializes in saddle-bagging, instead of the more usual peak-bagging, and indeed we found several saddles between the volcanic knolls. The light breeze felt marvelous. Finally the year has moved on to the point of cool, comfortable hiking.  


The grass was only a foot high and scrawny. The stalks were so thin, but grew unusually close together. It was like a miniature tawny forest of lodgepole pines. The whole impression was just the opposite of the dream scene in "Gladiator," when the person's hand drifts slowly through the wheat field--almost caressing the heavy seed heads that topped each hip-high stalk of wheat.

And yet this spindly Arizona grass seemed luxurious too. But how? Was it the autumnal lighting? 

 
So, off we go to the lowlands of stickers, spines, and sand. Compared to them, this scratchy grass is as soft as a kitten. It will be March before we see our old hiking buddies of soil and grass, again.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hawk Fleeing


Not too badly out of focus, considering what's happening. Dig those talons.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Volunteer Work

Recently I signed on as a volunteer to work on a section of the Continental Divide Trail. I really haven't done any volunteer work during my retirement, although I have looked into it from time to time. It surprised me what a formal organization they were. I got officious-looking letters from headquarters informing me that I'd be camping four nights and working eight hours per day on it. Then I bowed out.

But why? It had seemed like such a fine idea. At first I thought it was the logistics of getting there, camping, or finding a dog-sitter. But there was something deeper. Volunteering can seem humiliating, especially when you have to deal with salaried "volunteer coordinators." (Bureaucratic young squirts who live in a spreadsheet dream world.) Time is money, and to volunteer your time seems connected to the idea that your time and life are worthless.

I have been turned off by volunteering for animal shelters, as well. The impression I got was that they thought they were doing me a favor. They want you to sign up for long term commitments that benefit their schedule, not the volunteer's.

In general, it seems that volunteering gets you into some menial labor that could be done by kids, if the organizations just had the budget to pay them.

Then there was the political angle. Yes there is politics involved in a hiking trail. I feared that I would be surrounded by environmentalists who, if they had their way, would ban mountain bikes, dogs, horses, fly fishing, or anything besides hikes and wildlife lectures by the Sierra Club. Hikers tend to see themselves as the Purest and Holiest of nature lovers. In actual fact, half of hiking consists of driving a motor vehicle to the trailhead. A mountain biker could ride right from his front door.

But this also didn't seem like the real reason why I bowed out of the volunteer work. Is the problem that the whole idea of volunteer work is implicitly a big Guilt trip?

I seem to be getting warmer. An early retiree who lives an independent lifestyle does so by rebelling against the false idol of Necessity. He has decided that much of the Pragmatism of the world is phony, brought on by people acting slavishly conventional and falling into traps. Time traps, money traps, ego traps.

But what shall he do with himself when he has liberated himself from Necessity? Shall he turn himself over to someone else's dreary Necessity, in order to keep his own life busy-busy-busy and therefore "meaningful?" That seems like a defeat and a cop-out.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Education for a Traveler

My van's "Check Engine" light came on, once upon a time. Many dollars later, after several mechanics has slavishly looked at the diagnostic computer for hours and needlessly replaced various sensors, a clever mechanic found that the wiring harness had been rubbing a bolt and the outer insulation had been worn off, thus shorting a couple wires. I could have spared myself all this by poking around the engine compartment with a flashlight, and eliminating the rubbing with a few cents of tape.

O Woe! Rig maintenance is no small expense to an RVer. It puts you at the mercy of repair shops who see your out-of-state plates.

But if the School of Hard Knocks is not the ideal education for an independent lifestyle, what is? I'm not talking about "How to be an RVer 101" workshops. Long ago I read a book about early retirement that asserted that the ideal education was high school shop class cum Shakespeare. Perhaps the author meant that blue collar skills would solve practical problems less expensively, and liberal arts would make free moments interesting.

Good advice, but I hate automobile repair. How about just driving less?
Grab your car keys and you set off a chain reaction of expenses, and not just for gasoline! Why do we drive so much, anyway? Isn't it just for entertainment?  We think we need stimulation and entertainment every second of the day. We feel an ever-present itch that seems easiest to scratch by driving somewhere, buying something...

Of all the do-it-yourself skills that can save money, cooking is the most important. I envy people who feel no desire to eat out.

Most people get no education in investing money. It is scandalous that a trillion dollars of education money somehow overlooks this issue. Isn't doing your investment homework a better use of the day for a retiree than cable network news, crossword puzzles, or household trivia?
 
In our modern age the liberal arts seem effete and useless. We go to college to learn a profession and chase a "career" in some pathetic cubicle. Dilbert with a college diploma. 

If it seems difficult to spell out what the ideal educations is, perhaps an alternative lifestyle and its self-education are the same thing.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Milkweed Last Autumn

Rain, Mud, and a Movie

Cottonwood AZ. Recently I had a windy night high over the little mining town of Jerome. It was a reminder of how difficult it is to sleep when the trailer is rockin' and rollin'.

I wonder how many RVers considered living on a boat? I confess to having had that fantasy a few times.
My boat fantasy never survives more than thirty seconds of scrutiny. What would it be like to sleep on a boat during a stormy night?

As difficult as it is to sleep through wind, rain is even worse. The drops sound like BB's gradually drilling their way through the roof. Then the dogs decide they need a walk. Just the act of walking from my trailer to my van is a messy nuisance.

Arizona was having an all-night rain, recently. It's no fun boondocking in soup, especially with the dogs, so I rolled into Walmart for the night. The noisy rain on the roof woke me, so I popped in a DVD movie. Outside sheets of water sloughed down the parking lot, with harsh pole lights glaring overhead. It was a strange, yet enjoyable, scene. Still, what would it have been like at the dry wash of last post during a rainstorm like this?

The movie was Roman Polanski's "MacBeth." He is one of the few directors who understands that when it rains, the ground gets muddy and actors get wet. The first half of the movie takes place in damp, gloomy, but sublime, Scottish scenery. Although I enjoyed the recognizable quotes and pretty speeches of Shakespeare, it was really Polanski's realism of the outdoors that impressed me most. After seeing one of Polanski's movies I want to grab a bedroll and head off to sleep on the ground somewhere, as Nastasia Kinsky did in that memorable scene in "Tess."

With my brain messed up by the hour and the rain conditions outside, watching this movie had a more powerful effect on me than ever before. I've noticed that reading a book can be a more powerful experience if my travel conditions and the book line up perfectly, but this is the first time it worked like that for a movie.

As usual it is one of the bad days that leaves the traveler with a powerful memory. We are creatures meant for toil and trouble. Days perfect in the usual sense are not remembered one year hence. They are immaterial. They vanish like breath into the wind.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ensuring Longer Life

Recently I was thinking of some busy retirees that I know, as well as a conversation that I overheard in a coffee shop by folks nearing retirement. They decided not to opt for early retirement because they were afraid they'd be bored. If you were a part of that conversation, would you have offered a pep talk about all the activities and challenges that await in a busy -- and therefore meaningful -- retirement?

People are frightened of death, but boredom is more immediate. There is a profound contradiction here, since busyness makes time pass quicker; essentially, busyness makes you die "sooner." Imagine the vast fortune the country squanders on seniors the last two weeks of their lives. Meanwhile it would cost nothing to double or triple the psychological-years experienced past retirement age simply by consciously dwelling on your own thoughts and observations rather than being endlessly distracted by the Media or by household trivia.

A hot summer day. Drinking a cup of hot coffee, slowly; letting it cool slowly. Is that not a good thing?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Imagining Scenery

Last summer, migrating north through New Mexico and Colorado, I began encountering arroyos with water running in them. At first this seemed unnatural and unwholesome, but I tried to keep an open mind. In fact, wet rivers can grow on a person. Nevertheless, now that it is autumn, it is a relief to be back where rivers beds are dry and walkable. 




Besides, is there really all that much to see in a wet river? Perhaps, if the water is clear and shallow. Thoreau certainly did his best while paddling down "The Concord and Merrimack Rivers," but even his fans probably don't consider this his best essay. What would he have thought about the dry washes and canyons of the Southwest? Imagine if he had not died prematurely and had somehow hooked up with John Wesley Powell on his exploration of the Colorado River.

Starting from our campsite near Cottonwood AZ, the dogs and I drove upcountry. Further along this dirt road there was a big-name canyon that got a few tourist visitors. I was slightly tempted to follow; but I knew that brand-names look too much like they do in a postcard, which you can see at any gas station. Instead, I parked where the road crossed an arroyo that looked uninteresting; yet, downstream it hinted at exciting possibilities. Perhaps we could even pop out into the Verde River, one of Arizona's rare wet rivers.

The river bed was red sandstone and black volcanic basalt. It's a dramatic combination of colors. It's not for nothing that Hitler chose these colors when he designed the Nazi flag.

I started to get a sinking feeling as this dry wash slowly devolved into a slot canyon. I hate these things almost as much as caves, old mine shafts, etc. Still, the discomfort and fear come with a heightened awareness of everything around you.

Not being real rock climbers, we soon had to bail out by scrambling up the sides. On top I was surprised to learn that we were almost at the confluence with the Verde River.


Maybe Thoreau's essay on the Rivers is not as famous as Walden, just as this unnamed dry wash is overshadowed by the famous canyon a couple miles up the road. But I'm glad we explored it. In Rivers Thoreau says something  pertinent to travelers:
"The most stupendous scenery ceases to be sublime when it becomes distinct, or in other words, limited, and the imagination is no longer encouraged to exaggerate it."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Slaying the Monster of Summer

It's quite an experience this summer. After a decade of a Captain Ahab-like obsession about Dry Heat, I'm finally at peace with summer. Credit the snowiest winter in a generation. It seems important to follow through on this breakthrough. We are after all naked apes, adapted to hot African savannas. We are supposed to be at peace with warmth. In cold weather we can never really relax; it is an enemy we must always be on the guard against.

A friend told me once that when he lived in Florida he survived by taking four showers per day. It took some real effort to force myself to take merely two. Why was that so hard? Can trivial daily habits really be so hard to change?

The next nail in summer's coffin must come from sleeping hours. When you live at an altitude of 6000 feet in a dry western state, it gets nice at night, no matter how hot the afternoon. Thus we have perfect weather for 18 hours per day. Why sleep through half of them? More than anything else, gringo sleeping habits destroy one's ability to enjoy summer. Most people praise the sensibleness of Mexican hours in a hot, dry climate. But how many have acted on their opinion? That is this summer's project. Of course even if I succeed in this project, I'll have to do the reverse adjustment in October.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Big Valley

Our latest camp was high over little Jerome AZ, and the grand Verde River valley. This is about as far north as you can go in AZ and still be semi-warm. Winter starts with a vengeance in a couple days, and I don't want to surrender too soon to the moonscape of the Mojave.

The red rock cliffs of Sedona glow at sunset. I could enjoy this right from my trailer door:

I've never actually visited Sedona. I cling to my geo-bigotries as tightly as the old mining town of Jerome clings to the side of Woodchute Mountain. Jerome wasn't as tourist-kitsch as I feared; only the main buildings along tourist central are over-restored.


I took the dogs on a short hike, right from town. I was in a foul mood,  because of van maintenance problems, poor comportment by one of the dogs, and the claustrophobic road layout. If that weren't bad enough, we soon encountered volcanic rubble, my least favorite geologic layer. It had taken four attempts to find this miserable, gnarly road.

It went through a remarkable residential neighborhood, barely visible from the main highway. Most of the funky wooden houses were lived in. They weren't even painted, and the wooden siding was weathered by Arizona's sun and aridity into the color of a gray/brown cat. The yards, if small cliffs full of stickers can be called such, were full of esoterica evocative of the old mining days. Such junk was charming as a part of someone's home, although it wouldn't interest me in a tourist shop.

After hitting a dead end, I surrendered. Believe it or not today was a good outing, despite the fact that just about everything went wrong. I had been soothed by this funky little neighborhood.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Worm-eaten


Halloween photo: the worm-eaten souls of Los Muertos rise up through the flames of Hell, to commingle with the Living for one night per year.

City Lights

At a recent RV boondocking campsite the view back to town was brown, hazy and uninteresting, at least during the day. But when the sun went down it became delightful -- I could see the city lights of Prescott. It is ironic that an RV boondocker, who doesn't particularly care for cities or for camping in them, would enjoy city lights at night.

One of the prettiest sights at night is to camp a few miles above a casino town like Laughlin, NV, and appreciate the contrast between the cold black desert sky and the hot neon strip. Maybe it heightens your sense of separateness to have a view of a distant man-swarm.

But aren't boondockers supposed to rhapsodize about the brightness and beauty of the stars? I would have been a flunky Babylonian. I don't really walk about at night and look at the stars, even though there are few people who have better opportunities to do so than a RV boondocker. But looking back to town on this particular night, I wondered Why Not?

Perhaps it is because it's been decades since I literally slept out under the stars. Perhaps some people, like the T. Rex in "Jurassic Park," are most interested in nature that moves. The stars just sit there. To me, they are uninteresting points of lights and would still appear so, even with a powerful telescope.

It is true that stars are brighter in the dry, thin air of the high country. But does this make them worth fluttering your eyelashes over? It does make the constellations stand out clearer. The human brain finds patterns more interesting than points. It is one of those proclivities that makes us human, like our need to name things.



Sunday, June 20, 2010

Gravitational Therapy

It's been a while since I experienced amnesia while pedaling up a hill. It couldn't have happened at a better time. Last night I had a conversation with a fellow camper at the RV park and he predicted mass migration of Ari-cali-fornicaters to my Little Pueblo. "I'm in the first wave," he proudly predicted. Later that night I had a nightmare: that I went back to work.

Perhaps I'm a little sensitive on the issue of population growth after seeing one of my hangouts, St. George UT, go through a population explosion. I don't care to ever see the town again.

But who needs these thoughts, especially when I can't do anything about it. So up the hill I went, and went into a trance-like, internal rant. When I came to, I had just climbed a thousand feet and had no conscious memory of doing it.

Near the continental divide I saw a cycle tourist from the Netherlands resting. I stopped to talk to him for awhile. He stank as bad as a javelina. I have to keep reminding myself that even though the average RVer has a style that is uninteresting or even repulsive to me, I managed to develop my own style as an RVer that worked well for years; something similar could happen for bicycle touring.

Yet Another McMansion

Now I think we can all agree that this blog does not need another photo of another New Mexico dump. But I can't help myself.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Bridge over the River Hell

North of Prescott, AZ. We were camping in the headwaters of the Verde River, at the base of the Mogollon Rim, the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau. The dogs and I took off on a mountain bike ride to Hell Canyon, right from the travel trailer's door. How can you resist a place-name like that? 
We were on a flat stretch of overgrazed ground. You don't really see much of that on western public lands anymore, thanks to the environmental lobby. There! For once, I've given them a well-earned compliment.

The dogs loved running on the flat dirt roads on the way to Hell Canyon. We finally arrived at the canyon, at the point of a large railroad bridge and a highway bridge built back in the Depression. Both were picturesque.

 

Looking at these tracks over Hell Canyon brought an image to mind: the boys playing chicken with a train in Rob Reiner's wonderful movie, "Stand by Me." Since I had missed that experience as a lad, I felt a perverse desire to bolt across this bridge, especially with a post-9/11-era sign telling me that I shouldn't.

Perhaps an adult should feel ashamed of such a puerile urge. But the alternative would have been to experience this as a mere tourist; not a great option, since Hell Canyon really isn't spectacular enough for a postcard. Actually this is my favorite kind of place: attractive, but subdued; neglected and overlooked. 

I just stood there, looking at it, and soaking up the forlorn lonesomeness that such places usually have, when I actually heard a train whistle in the distance! This caused a sudden panic for me about getting to the canyon-bottom in time for a photo of the train crossing the old bridge. Finally I got down there. The river was dry of course but, as is usually the case in the Southwest, the effects of water were everywhere. The rocks were so rounded by erosion down on the bottom, and some of the water-carved sculptures were amusing:

Even dried mud showed the effect of water and sun. The red sandstone mud had tensile-cracked, exfoliated, and curled up:


Although I kept hearing the train whistle I couldn't really tell whether the train was approaching or receding from the bridge. All sorts of odd creaking sounds could be heard overhead; does that mean it's already too late? I started running to a better camera position. Hurry up! Then the whistle blew again--was that the official railroad policy as the train finally approached the bridge?

What if I twisted my ankle running over these troublesome rounded rocks? Would I have the guts to ignore the pain and to hobble to the best camera position in time to see the train...

...it wasn't Hell Canyon anymore. As the train whistle got louder and louder, a wounded and frantic William Holden was limping, desperately trying to get to the detonator box to blow up the "Bridge over the River Kwai," before the train got to it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Travel Blog Addiction

This wasn't supposed to happen to me. I don't even know where to get treatment for it. I'm talking about becoming addicted to travel blogs. A journal junkie. No, not RV travel blogs. They're nice folks, but their notion of travel is un-adventuresome to the extreme, as is the case with about any motor-vehicle culture. With RV culture, old age makes it even worse. Nor have I gotten hooked on the young world-vagabonder blogs; hitchhiking around the globe and staying in youth hostels is something I just can't relate to.

Rather, it's the bicycle touring blogs that have hooked me, even though I loathe tent camping and high-traffic highways. Perhaps the key to enjoying any subculture is to discount or laugh off 95 percent of it as uninteresting or uncomfortable stereotypes, and then look for the 5 percent that is juicy and interesting.

Deja vu helped too. When I was being drawn into dog culture I went to an agility trial for the first time, and was really entertained. The dogs who screwed up were the most interesting. The same thing tends to happen in the bicycle touring blog genre.

For instance some bloggers are taking their first tour and are woefully ill-equipped and naive. What, the wind blows from the west most of the time? That never would have occurred to them as they set off riding from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Or they ride the Continental Divide route with little appreciation of altitude, the monsoon season, or goatheads in the Southwest. It's a hoot to watch people make astounding discoveries such as: mornings are less windy, hot, and thunderstormy than afternoons. Gee, the guys writes as he is thinking out loud, Maybe I should start riding across the Mojave Desert in June as early as sunrise!

In some ways it is a vice to study and think too much. Maybe it would be better to be more like crazy college kids who just take off, and stumble into one "Tom Jones" (Henry Fielding) misadventure after the next. They bounce well at that age.

The armchair traveler can get some real kicks seeing people mess up and then dig their way out of it. There are travelers who are marvelous at improvising. The local tours by beginners are the best of all. The other day I even found one guy who took off with only a vague goal, and then asked locals about road traffic. He kept finding quiet roads, pastures and barns. That was a masterful job. Anybody can do it if they avoid the great besotting vice of getting obsessed with excess mileage, and then have deadlines, destinations, and airline tickets breathing down their neck for two months.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Funny Colored Red Tailed Hawk


You can see a hidden reddishness to the tail. It shows better when they are flying. But if this is a red tailed hawk, why is it so grey instead of the usual brown/black?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Marital spat?

My eyes are frequently pulled to small unglamorous birds.

A Harmless Crank

Because of our rainy and snowy winter I got a bit out of shape. This offered me an unusual chance to relive the process of getting in shape in the spring, like I experienced it years ago, back East. It was the sequence of the human machine that interested me. First the quadriceps get stronger. Then aerobic fitness makes a comeback. These two things happen quickly. The last thing on the list, which takes all summer, is lower back strength. It really is the back, and not "thunder thighs," that gets you up the hills. 

The second-to-last machine part is the subtle one. The human body must be harnessed correctly in order to efficiently operate a crank-machine like a bicycle. I can't quite remember, but I think it was the classic book on medieval technology by Lynn Townsend White that emphasized how slow the development of the crank was. A crank mechanism converts rotary motion into linear motion, or vica versa.  

You might even remember your grandmother powering her Singer sewing machine with a foot treadle. And she might have remembered her great grandmother using a similar mechanism for spinning. Without a crank, water-wheels would not have been able to use a rotating shaft to run a reciprocating sawmill. Nor would the linear expansion of steam (or gasoline) have been good for anything other than a reciprocating pump. There would have been no Industrial Revolution, steam locomotive, or paddle wheel steamboats.

I believe it was White who said that 'there is something about the crank that repels the human mind.' Indeed, show a conventional gasoline engine to a young child, with its clumsy pistons, connecting rods, and crankshaft; and then show the same child a rotary Wankel engine. I'll bet that 99% of the children would prefer the latter, regardless of their demographic background. 

The main pieces of crank-based machines were all present in ancient Roman times, but it didn't lead to anything. Even a civilization as ancient and advanced as China didn't have crank-machines until the twentieth century, according to the Wikipedia article. But ever so slowly crank-machines were finally developed in medieval Europe.

One of the weird things about a crank-machine is that no usable force is produced at top or bottom dead center. Hence the flywheel. 

This brings us to the problem a cyclist has: his machine is converting linear contraction in his thigh muscles to rotary motion. No matter how strong he is at pushing down on the pedals, his thigh muscles are only used effectively for 60 degrees out of a 360 degree circle. Fortunately for us we have many muscles that are underutilized. It takes cleated bicycle shoes to pull backwards at the bottom of the stroke -- like you're scraping mud off your shoes at the front door. This pulls in large muscles such as the gluteus maximus and the lower back.

It usually takes several weeks before my muscles are scraping mud off the bottom of the feet. I wonder how many people take an unstudied slap at cycling every now and then, and never appreciate how the muscles of the human machine must work as a team in order to have fun and be fast. Imagine how frustrating and unsatisfying swimming would be if you just jumped in and flailed and thrashed like a dumb kid.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Transparency in the Housing Industry

On my standard summer bicycle ride I see this aborted McMansion, sticking out on a rocky knoll as ostentatiously as possible. Nice views, with lots of wind. I've heard different stories but most of them say something about the builder and the owner getting into a fight and just walking away from it. It's quite the eyesore now. Still, it's symbolic of what happened in 2004-2006.

Strange Bedfellows for a Camper

Full time RV boondockers are famous for sleeping around. Perhaps our most interesting bedmate is the industrial economy, which at times can be far more interesting than postcard scenery. 

One summer I squatted on a maritime pier on Puget Sound. I was awakened in the middle of night by the bellowing horn of a huge tugboat that had pulled up.
I quickly got dressed and staggered around on the pier, still half asleep. The crew was changing shifts. The tugboat's job was to escort football-field-sized oil tankers to a nearby refinery. My eye was drawn to the huge ropes that lashed the tugboat to the pier.

At my present boondocking campsite on the east side of Chino Valley, AZ, I am enjoying watching the macho equipment roll in to build another power line.

Have you ever thought of the technological miracles of the 1800's: the conversion of mechanical motion into electricity, and thence into so many things? People of a few generations ago went through bigger changes than we have, despite the cliche that Progress moves faster every year.

My full-sized cargo van looked petite compared to all of the equipment rolling in. The first morning here, a caravan of Caterpillar-colored ground-chewers rumbled by, equally spaced, and preceded by a tanker truck that hosed down the dirt road, like a drum majorette preparing the way for a marching band.

A crane had a weird, Tyrannosaurus Rex effect, when looking at it through the passenger-side mirror. Recall that famous scene in "Jurassic Park": objects in mirror are closer than they appear.

And so, off the power goes to the affluent home-dwellers of Prescott, who have never given a thought to what their standard of living is based on.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Kestrel

I always like getting the Evil Eye from a curious or annoyed bird, especially from a sexy little Hot Shot like a kestrel.

The Night Stalker

We are camped in the Prescott national forest, but not in the ranger district of Prescott itself. What a relief it is to be away from the Prescott mindset. But let's not beat up on Prescott too much. No doubt, Sedona is even worse.

It is so old-fashioned where I am boondocked right now. There are few visitors, perhaps because the scenery is nice, but un-postcard-like. There aren't any special categories of land management, with all the obnoxious brown signs that let you know your Government is watching everything you do. Places like this are my sanctuaries from Progress. 

The dogs and I were off exploring Woodchute Mountain. We came upon a water entrapment pond when I noticed a plurality of animal tracks on the talcum powder-like dust. These ponds are a big deal in the tawny chaparral of Arizona's Central Highlands. They are as important as the community well in a traditional third world village. 

I saw some tracks over three inches wide, and half-convinced myself that they were mountain lion tracks. Nearby were tracks with five toes and clear claw marks. Say, isn't that the giveaway for black bear tracks? The imprint was heavy in the palm; black bears walk like that. What kept all these predators and prey from going on a rampage at ye olde watering hole? Did they follow a different schedule that never overlapped with a rival?

How I would like to have the ability of Earlier Man to read a story from these tactile remanences of the night. Without it we are illiterate, and exploring land becomes less interesting. It's like one of the basic senses being missing. We are already sense-deprived enough compared to most animals because our sense of smell is so weak.

Imagine sitting out on a chilly night, a quarter mile downwind of this watering hole. There are no sounds except for occasional coyote screams. There is no light except from the Milky Way or maybe a moon. You wait patiently while aiming an infrared scope at the pond.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Why I Hate Apple Computer

Consumers have paid a price for obsessing over cheapness when it comes to electronic gadgets. It is the reason for the quality and durability being so low. One company that escaped the Cheaper-and-Cheaper Syndrome is Apple Computer. I'm happy for them and their employees. Even those of us who do not buy their products benefit indirectly from the countervailing force that Apple creates.

We also benefit from their innovation, since every company soon jumps on board and imitates it. For instance, I have no interest in a keyboard-less tablet computer like the iPad, but I hope to buy a (keyboard-equipped) clamshell netbook with the trends that Apple is pushing: a non-Windows operating system, faster boot-up, an ARM (non-Intel x86) microprocessor that uses low power, and an all-semiconductor "hard drive."

Consider the "apps" phenomenon that Apple has brought to the world. In the gadget racket this might seem like an innovation. Perhaps it is really just the reinvention of the Dremel tool, for which the customer must buy many accessories -- those ingenious spinning little wizzmo's -- in order to do something specific. I have a Dremel tool and love it. Its "apps" only cost a couple dollars each, but there are dozens of them, and you have to buy them from Dremel. Since the Dremel tool rotates at 20,000 rpm the "app" burns out or dulls in 10 seconds. Soon you have spent more on apps than the original Dremel tool. Gee, I'll bet the company never noticed that.

The title of this blog said 'hate' and yet I seem to be praising Apple. Strictly speaking, it's only the media hype over Apple that drives me crazy, as well as the behavior of fan boys at Steve Jobs's product unveilings. One of the reasons why the Media is so obsessed with Apple's new gadgets is simply that the Medium is the Message. The network always matters more than the gadget. But networks build out gradually; that makes for news about as exciting as saying, "Wheat field grows 4.2% this month." A new gadget makes for Breaking News; that's the only kind that matters.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

While shopping for a new RV boondocking campsite north of Prescott, I thought about how strange it is that it's still a challenge, despite years of experience. Actually 80% of the effort is in finding a campsite that also has wireless internet.

Think about the newbies who spend thousands of dollars on satellite internet systems for their rig. Does it ever occur to them how circular the argument is? Most RVers have rigs that are simply too big for RV boondocking, except in a few places. If there doesn't happen to be cellphone coverage there, the RVer then concludes that he must spend thousands of dollars on satellite internet. Why not save tens of thousands of dollars by buying a smaller rig that can camp in more places?

On today's campsite shopping trip, I saw something unusual. A helicopter was ferrying utility poles to a new power line in the national forest. The holes have already been augered; the helicopter carefully lowers the pole into the hole. Interesting to watch. (Maybe I need to get out more.)

The helicopter made a round trip every five minutes, ferrying pole after pole. At first it was amusing. A Harley guy might say that the flying ferry boat had a visceral beat. But I'm not a Harley guy. I was afraid of trying to take a mid-day nap, then waking up suddenly, and feeling like I was in the middle of the movie, "Apocalypse Now."

A few miles ahead there was a large substation that stepped the voltage down from 560,000 volts! It was connecting Edward Abbey's hated dam at Page, AZ, to Phoenix's air conditioners.

In a way I was disappointed. For years I'd seen power lines in impossible places in the backcountry, and wondered how they managed to do it. And now I find out that they cheated! I'd always fantasized that building them was the ultimate test of man, machine, and mule, back in the Heroic Age when men were made of iron, and utility poles were made of wood.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Toynbee Eats His (UN) Veggies

The United Nations is in the news again, offering mankind guidance and advice, and looking for a way to make it mandatory. Their advice isn't completely new. Back in 2008 -- a year after he shared the Nobel Peace Prize with that other Eminence and scientific Luminary, Al Gore -- Rajendra Pachauri recommended that mankind eschew animal flesh one day per week. (You remember Pachauri, surely, of IPCC and global-warming-scandal fame.) He claimed that this would alleviate a laundry list of world problems.

More recently a new UN report has tightened the screws on mankind. We are now to become vegans, rather than mere part-time vegetarians.

Rather than flail around in policy-wonk mode, let's place the matter in a wider historical context. How can we fit this into Toynbee's classic "A Study of History?" (I use the abridged version because it has a drastically lower carbon footprint.) Consider Chapter VII, Universal Churches; section (2), Churches as Chrysalises, which tries to explain the evolution of civilizations from Old civilization, to religious chrysalis, to New civilization:

"[Every one of the extant civilizations] had in its background some universal church through which it was affiliated to a civilization of an older generation."

In the chrysalis stage, a civilization might seem static or arrested. But internally it is going through fundamental creative changes. One day, the new civilization emerges as a butterfly.

Before 1968, European civilization was post-Christian, materialist, industrial, scientific, expansionist, and nationalist. Then it went into the hippie-dippie chrysalis for a few years. What emerged was New Age Hindu/Buddhist, Green, chemophobic, anti-growth, and internationalist. No longer was Western Civilization pushed by hard, physical sciences; now it was centered around squishy social sciences; around the touchie-feelie. The new post-industrial economy saw the Manufacturing sector go into a long decline, hounded by government regulations and environmentalists every step down the slope. The economy was now to run on finance (read, debt), services, raising llamas, government mandates, and teaching yoga.

If this analysis is correct, the UN's ostensible reasons against meat-eating are just thinly disguised kultur-kampf. Although vegetarianism was not completely unknown to European civilization prior to 1968, it became much more hip and trendy afterward. Let's just hope that UN technocrats, working on complex computer models of Global Sustainability, haven't found a rationale for bringing back the Nehru jacket.

Sun on a Foggy Morning

The Easy Way to Exercise

A reader recently touched one of my hot buttons when he said that he 'should exercise more.' It's ironic that I am writing this when Coffee Girl, my new dog, is not supposed to exercise because she was spayed a couple days ago. Yesterday both dogs and I were restless and irritated. I think we are going to be naughty and have a nice walk today.

If only I had a nickel for every time I've heard someone say that they should exercise more. That is the moral equivalent of sitting on the sofa in front of the boob toob and saying 'I really should eat more organic dehydrated alfalfa pellets, washed down with distilled water, instead of this bag of potato chips and ranch dip, but...'

Why do people discuss exercise like they are swallowing bitter medicine? The worst idea of all is to do routine exercise indoors. No wonder people think that making yourself exercise is an exercise in sheer will power.

Is there an alternative to this self-defeating scenario? It is only homo sapiens that confuses exercise with health, guilt, duty, vanity, thinness and self-esteem, etc. Other animals have a healthier attitude. The easiest one to observe is the dog.

The dog does not go on its run in a mood of grim determination to lower its cholesterol. Strictly speaking he isn't concerned about exercise itself, but about the world around him: odors, prey, friends, foes, and new people. Physical fitness accrues to the dog indirectly.  

Perhaps this is just a specific example of what John Stuart Mill wrote of, in that classic chapter, "My Mental Crisis," in his Autobiography. He concluded that personal happiness could not be sought directly -- that it could only be a byproduct of more tangible or urgent pursuits.

Why not dwell on interesting things in the world, and experience them through the means of exercise, rather than dwell on exercise directly? Alternatively, running errands on foot or with a bicycle saves a lot of money, while giving the benefits of exercise indirectly.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Last Ride of Season

I try to mountain bike as much as possible for safety reasons, but road cycling is much cooler in summer. On my last mountain bike ride out to a Benedictine monastery, this view presented itself:

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

World's Worst RV Boondocking

Of all the RV boondocking locations Quartzsite and the Slabs are probably the most famous. But there is another place that has its own kind of distinction: the Walmart in Gallup, NM. I went through there recently on my way to picking up my little poodle who was rescued above Book Cliffs near Grand Junction, CO.

Gallup is certainly at a convenient and strategic location, on I-40, near the Four Corners. 


It's surrounded by a Navajo reservation. When an RVer pulls off the highway he immediately notices many big-box parking lots, without any signs telling him to get lost. Happy Hunting Grounds, then, for an RV boondocker?

Alas, truckers off of I-40 sense opportunity, too. There are signs prohibiting them, but they pay no attention to them. There was a whole line of semi-trucks parked next to the Walmart. On my way up to pick up the poodle I stayed at one of the quieter big boxes, but on the return trip I was led by a perverse curiosity to the Walmart--just how bad could it be?

I'd heard that the Gallup Walmart was famous for panhandlers knocking on RVer's doors at night. This story was told as a typical scare story, by the same sort of timid RVer who tells you about banditos in Mexico or the Bogeyman in the national forest.

Still, I was surprised when I saw a police substation attached to the side of the Walmart. In fact a Navajo panhandler did knock on my door. He was "concerned" about my new dog barking in the van. At first I was a bit nervous, but he eventually put me at ease, moving through the usual pleasantries. He probed ever so smoothly for points of vulnerability in me. Eventually I started to admire the guy. He was good at his craft, and his grasp of the English language was superior to many presidents and candidates of recent years.

The new dog's separation anxiety caused her to keep barking as she sat alone in the van while the rescued poodle and I hung out in the travel trailer. It was an unsteady, sharp sound that was truly obnoxious. This was a new experience for me and was quite worrisome. I didn't want to give in to this problem of hers.

But after awhile I started to see a kind of 'negative beauty of tragic tones', as Thomas Hardy would have called it.
It wasn't mere barking -- it was desperate wailing. It soared over the roars of diesel engines, highways, sirens and trains, like the violent climax of a Puccini opera. It honored the occasion -- it perfected -- the worst night of boondocking I'd ever had. Had my little poodle wailed in desperation like her, during his two weeks of cold, hunger, and fear on the high plateau above Book Cliffs? I would give anything to see a video of his life for those two weeks.

But of course, I gave in. Soon she was in bed with me, licking my hand. Good girl. The little poodle generously shared the bed with her.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Finally, Something Important in the Media

One of the best summaries of the financial crisis that I've ever seen is this one on CNBC (of all places). In it they discuss the government-sanctioned ratings cartel of Moody's and Standard and Poor's, as well as the conflict of interests in having the firm being rated pay the ratings agency. (People have compared that to having judges paid by the plaintiff or the defendant.)

Essentially that makes ratings a farce. Large institutions -- such as pension funds, insurance companies, and banks -- are required to invest in AAA bonds. So the ratings cartel gives everybody a AAA rating, and the System is happy.

I don't understand the mindset of some people to have a knee-jerk reaction favoring more government regulation to financial institutions. If risk had been rated honestly and accurately, these bubbles could not occur. There are independent rating agencies that could be used. Or they could require the buyer of bonds to pay for the ratings, not the seller of the bonds, as they do now.

Or the government could run the ratings agency. What, you say, that isn't the kind of thing a free-market, libertarian guy is supposed to propose. But recall that overseeing "weights and measures" is in the Constitution. When you buy gasoline you've probably noticed the sticker put there by the state inspectors. Similarly at the grocery store. You wouldn't trust the grocery store or the gas station alone to determine when a gallon is a gallon, or a pound is a pound.

Measuring risk is less precise than defining pounds and gallons, but it is similar in purpose.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Running out of Luck

For the first time in 40 years, after another 35,000 wells have been drilled, we finally got unlucky with an oil spill. Why did it take so long? Don't count on that ever being discussed.

Of course as a bicyclist and pedestrian I reacted at first with some evil pleasure at the notion of anything that will make gasoline cost more in the future. My goodness, I get so sick of noisy pickup trucks and hectic traffic.

It says something about our country that the Media immediately ran to the American president, as if he can just push a buzzer in the Oval Office and make the crisis du jour go away.

Watch the talking heads, the politicians, and the Greens posture in front of the TV cameras: none of these could handle the tiniest technical problem themselves. They have no appreciation for the complex engineering involved in bringing petroleum to an economy completely dependent on it.

Most galling are the Greens. This is a perfect chance for them to demagogue big Evil oil corporations. If only their fellow-travelers in the Media asked the Greens why Big Oil is drilling in mile-deep water in the first place, instead of drilling more safely on BLM or national forest land, with low-tech and smaller wells, and with easier containment of a small spill.

For decades now, America has been living in a dream world regarding energy, and yet, we've been getting away with it. It is really surprising that petroleum hasn't increased in price more than it has, with all the people in Asia driving cars and using more energy.

Some think-tank policy wonk will appear on a news show and scold us for not having an "energy policy." Usually that just means small increases in automobile fuel efficiency, with a giant loophole made for SUV's and pickup trucks, since they are "agricultural", you know. It also means more subsidies for suburban sentimentalists' favorite toy technologies, such as windmills or solar panels.

Put yourself in the place of the average post-industrial, suburban, environmentalist/sentimentalist: she looks at pictures of distraught pelicans on her giant TV screen on the other side of her great room, say, 30 feet in length. Her 3500 square foot Garage Mahal (subsidized by the US taxpayer) is climate-controlled 340 days per year. She drives one of the three family SUVs or pickup trucks to drop her kid off at school everyday, instead of telling the little chubbo to walk or ride his bike. She couldn't survive one day without the petroleum industry.

The reaction to the oil spill shows that a large part of the American economy -- and virtually all of its Media -- lives in a post-industrial dream world, where sentimentality and emotion trump engineering and economics, and where hypocrisy and escapism trump rational, adult thinking. They take all of their modern comforts for granted and prefer to moon and swoon over a pelican. A major oil spill like this is almost a blessing in disguise if it encourages the American people to reconnect to physical reality.

But let's end on a positive note: by sheer dumb luck, a retired executive of Shell, John Hofmeister, has just brought out a book entitled, "Why We Hate the Oil Companies." He is an articulate spokesman for a rational approach to energy problems. Surprisingly the news outlets are paying attention to him. And that makes him a pretty rare bird.

Infamous Goathead


Think of them as nature's alarm clock. It makes for a bad start to a new day when I put my foot down from the bed and immediately hit a goathead that was dragged into my RV. But it certainly wakes a guy up.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Love of Life

Adventure books have grabbed me from time to time, such as my first couple weeks as a full time RVer, in northern Michigan. Spring was supposed to be happening, but it wouldn't. It was cold and damp in that little travel trailer, which I was struggling to get used to. It seemed like an igloo. I was alone and had little to occupy my time. 'RV Dream' lifestyle, indeed! I was having some doubts.

I ended up reading Richard Byrd's classic outdoor tale, "Alone," about his solitary brush-with-death in the Antarctic. There's nothing like reading the right book at just the right time and place. With that idea in mind, I read "Alive" when I was hoping that my lost little poodle might be rescued. "Alive" was the story about the South American rugby team who suffered a plane crash in the Andes. They also made a movie of it. But it didn't inspire me, like you might think. Instead it made me feel ashamed of holding onto such unrealistic hopes. Similarly watching Disney's classic "Homeward Bound" made me feel self-disgust more than anything.

In one of Fred and Ginger's movies they acted out a scene where a suicidal gambler chances upon a woman who was ready to throw herself into the river. They found each other, saved each other. They decided to "Face the Music and Dance" to Irving Berlin's song. Here at last was my inspiration to accept the demise of my little poodle, who was my first dog, and move on with life. I went to the animal shelter and adopted my first female dog.

One final connection between my little dog's brush with death and books remains: the tales of Jack London. Although his novels "White Fang" and "Call of the Wild" are known best, my favorite was always a short story called, "Love of Life:" a man slowly starves to death in the far North. Along the way, he is stalked by a wolf who is also dying. They move along, slowly and painfully, linked in this Dance of Death. The man knows he's losing the battle. He -- or rather the Life in him -- tries to think of something.

It doesn't matter to me that wildlife biologists or wilderness societies might disapprove of London's stories. What counts is that his stories help us get in touch with...

 
...the Wolf Within.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Northern Flicker


These fellows are in the woodpecker family. You get no hint of their beautiful golden underwings until they fly.

The Spirit of Summer

This year, June in the Southwest is living up to its reputation of monotonous, cloudless skies and fierce Dry Heat. Normally I would be miserable during weather like this, and look forward to the monsoons later in the summer. But not this year; winter really did cure me of piteous whining about dry heat.

All it takes to enjoy an afternoon like today is a small gift of shade, sacred Sombra. The breeze does the rest. 'Wind' and 'spirit' (breath) have quite a history together, which a good dictionary or Wikipedia can tell you about.

I've tried to shelter the Wind from its many assailants and detractors. If my eloquence failed, then seek your own inspiration in a chair, outdoors. The wind coats and cools every inch of your skin, like a mountain stream does to a rock in its middle.   

Remember when you were a kid and trying to exact revenge on a sibling or playmate; Mother would shake her finger at you and say, "Two wrongs don't make a right." But in fact, they sometimes do. A cold, snowy, and long winter make this kind of summer heat bearable, if not enjoyable. The "negative" quality of wind becomes a positive in the summer heat.

Normally my outdoors-day is over by 11 in the morning. But now I am discovering outdoor-hours unknown to me in the winter. Step outdoors in deep-dusk and feel how cool it is; you feel foolish for sleeping indoors. You leave the door open at night. To heck with worrying about the bogeyman.

In mid-afternoon I fill plastic tubs with water. Normally cold water is a hateful substance. But on days like this, I splash my dogs' heads with water. The silly creatures shake it off. But then they start to enjoy the cooling.

You can actually enjoy a trip to the grocery story for some cool snacks or drinks right in the middle of one of these torrid afternoons. Just dunk your clothes and feet in water and jump on a bicycle, while wearing impractical and non-athletic footwear, such as flip-flops. You won't pedal hard. The wheels of bicycle rotate slowly; just fast enough to turn you into a human swamp cooler.

Think cool, lazy thoughts: slow bike wheels; slow blades of a ceiling fan in the days before air conditioning; slow windmill blades in the hot prairie wind. The breeze pushes on you, and then lets up. In some long-gone era, you would have seen it as the rhythmic respiration -- the hot breath -- of some distant earth-beast.

Back in the chair you go. Why must something fast happen in order to be entertained? Nothing exciting need transpire. Excitement is too hot; contentment is cool.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Soft as Granite

The trails around Prescott, AZ, proved to be a great place to break in the new dog, who is still unnamed. The Prescott area highlights granite gargoyles and balanced rocks. Then the granite crumbles into dry washes and trails. This goes against the normal image of 'hard as granite.' Granite, in a state of nature, seldom has the triple A hardness and denseness needed for the counter-tops of Alan Greenspan's McMansions and Garage Mahals. In fact, granite is usually found in a sub-prime state. 

After the recent housing boom, there must be craters in Vermont or Italy so huge that they perturb the rotational mechanics of the spinning globe. Failed politicians looking for a second career would do well to consider raising the general level of awareness of the dire threat of Global Tilting or Wobbling. 


It is no small miracle to see one of my theories actually work. I chose my second dog to be as different from my first dog as possible. I didn't want the specialness of the second dog to be destroyed by comparing it to the first. While hiking and biking with the new dog in these granite gargoyles near Prescott, this actually happened. 

I'm doing a pretty good job of applying the same principle to Prescott, one of the southwestern retirement boom towns that you would hate if you compared it to its golden age before "discovery" and californication! Fortunately I never knew Prescott in its golden age. I would rather dwell on the fact that some things in this world take a long time to decay; and they decay not into ugliness and mediocrity, but into:


Thursday, June 3, 2010

pRaising Arizona

After pulling into town RVers typically park in the spacious parking lots of big boxes on the edge of town. Let's say you've done so but are still hitched up, and then you see the store you really want just across the street. What do you do: walk or drive?

For your sake I hope you drive, as silly as that seems. There is little allowance made for pedestrians on most American streets, except in Oregon or some mountain towns in Colorado.
I had a close call walking across the street in western Colorado, recently. Despite the close call, Colorado is quite good in that department. I dreaded returning to culturally backward states like Utah and Arizona. 

Since western Colorado is in the gravitational field of Moab, I found a cycling newspaper and read about a tragic accident involving a cycling advocate. I started rolling the tape back over all the cyclists I've known who were smacked by cars. The next day I stopped to help a caterpillar cross the road near the BLM mesa where I was camping.

One night I noticed the neighbors below the mesa actually walking on a rural chip-and-seal road at sunset with their baby stroller. That was a rare sight, and more precious to me than all the red rock photo cliches that I would soon be driving through, in Moab and Monument Valley. Normally rural roads are driven at 65+ mph and are dreadful places for walkers or runners.

When I pulled into Prescott, AZ, last week I expected to go into a tirade about their insane traffic. I was surprised to see cameras and automated radar vans cracking down on speeders. It does seem a little odd for somebody who is basically libertarian to praise anti-speeding techniques like this. No longer are motor-crazed yahoos cruising neighborhood streets at 40 mph. Occasionally you even see a child riding a bicycle on a residential street.




Back to Normal

The rescued poodle was coming along fine. He and my (unnamed) new dog were confused by each other, but they will probably get along.
How nice it was to get back on the road--back to normal--and drift over the high plateaus of the Southwest, those brilliantly-lit, elevated, display cases of geology. It has been a long time since I saw Shiprock near Farmington, NM. The last time I was here a friend and I were such newbies that we didn't know that it trespassing to travel on Indian reservations, off the main highways. We actually boondocked right at the base of Shiprock until a Navajo kicked us out.

The main peak is an old volcanic throat. The surrounding rock, probably sandstone, has eroded away.


On this visit I especially enjoyed the volcanic dikes that radiate away from the main peak. They were formed when igneous rocks oozed through cracks. They extend for  miles, but are only a few feet wide. In places they looked like a crumbling brick wall, with holes.

When you look at the topography of the Colorado Plateau today, you see the erosion-resistant residue of the past. I wonder how many people, living in this era of electronics and computers, are aware that much of this technological progress is based on photo-lithography: which means 'writing on rocks with light,' in Greek. The "rock" in microelectronics is a silicon wafer.

On the Colorado Plateau we see the results of hydro-lithography. Silicon is one of the main components of the earth's crust.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

An Honest Political Party?

The Socialist party in Japan pulled out of the ruling coalition, and brought down the prime minister, merely because he failed to live up to his promise to boot out a foreign invader. (The American military base in Okinawa.) The socialists in Japan showed some real integrity and guts by reacting to betrayal the way they did; contrast this with the indifference of the American Left, when the latter's "peace candidate" turned into a warmonger.

Why the discrepancy? Does the "Left" mean something different in Japan than in the USA? Or is the American Left just especially spineless? Actually I don't think political ideology explains why the American Left continues to support a president who should be considered a political traitor. Demographics does.

The USA is a country that has few indigenous Leftists. By 1900 or so most of Europe's intelligentsia had become Marxist (on the continent) or Fabian Socialist in England. Many of the professorships at America's most prestigious universities were held by European intellectuals.

America has no native intelligentsia. Like ancient Romans, Americans stick to building roads, laws and courts, tax collecting, crass entertainment in the Coliseum, over-eating, and invading other people's countries. As for ideas, well, we outsource that to Europe, just as ancient Romans did to Greece. 

Once ensconced in America's elite universities, European socialism spread like Dutch Elm disease. The students went on to become professors at universities one notch lower. This process kept notching down and broadening until every journalist, TV or movie script writer, pastor, and school teacher became infected.

Finally, a suburban and corporate-cubicle-friendly version of Leftism-Lite became an endemic disease of middle-class brats whose parents could afford to send them to college. Students whose grades weren't quite as good, and whose parents were lower-middle class or even in inner cities, tended to prefer the military as the means of upward social mobility.

We ended up with two demographic categories, with disparate ideologies. Let's call them the college-type and the military-type. The college-tribe is taught to be properly Leftist, environmentalist, feminist, and to thinks it's hip, cool, and progressive to be gay.

The military-tribe is full of the jocks, gearheads, and Bible-thumpers of small town America, who are taught "patriotism," which basically means that God appointed America to rule the Earth, and that invading and bombing half the countries in the earth is part of our Divinely-appointed ministry.

And that is why the college-tribe isn't particularly upset when their peace candidate turns out to be a warmonger: it just means a thousand or so boxes come back to the States every year, filled with the mangled carcasses of the military-tribe, none of whom were personal friends of the college-tribe.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Center of Attention


There seems to be no way to photograph a raven other than silhouette. I still don't understand why everything pointed to the raven here, but I like it.