Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Miracle of Clouds

At the moment I am awe-struck by some clouds despite them being completely un-pretty, visually. Clouds are the most under-rated gifts of Nature, at least to a gringo in the Southwest in late May or June, before the monsoons bring salvation. What can clouds be compared to? All I know is that my eyes and skin are overwhelmed by a feeling of gentleness and kindness.

As I finished my bicycle ride this morning, I passed a female cyclist who didn't seem like she did much riding. But she sure looked happy. Later she told me that she hadn't been on the bike for a long time, and that she loved the clouds. I had to agree.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Unfulfilled Longing

We've all heard people tell their "lucky" stories: they were in the right spot at the right time, and got some unbelievable deal on a used car, or met some gorgeous girl who had broken up recently, or got hired to some really cool job. In general, such stories are disgusting; they never happen to you or me.

The other day I reached the top of our highest "XYZ Foothills" type subdivision, on my bicycle. Many times I've felt lust and frustration for a connection between the high-altitude dead-end of that subdivision and nearby dirt roads over mountains in the national forest. But I never found access.

Lust? Well yes, lust, covetousness, growling-desire. A mountain biker must not be the only savant who experiences these feelings over topography: horsemen must, as well; perhaps even jeepers and ATVers do,

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Into the Abyss...and Beyond

The month of May has found me as a professional tour guide, by my usual standards. Currently I am hosting the fourth RV-blogger visitor to the Little Pueblo. Quite early in the process I realized how difficult it is to be a good tour guide. My own interest in anything is primarily based on its experiential context, not on its purely visual appeal, and never on its appeal when looked at through a windshield. And say what they will, travelers tend to exist on a visual level more so than a resident.

Take, for example, a big hole in the ground. Its chances of being put on a calendar sold by the Sierra Club are not so good. But the terror I feel around old mine shafts makes it one of the most powerful experiences that I ever have in the great Outdoors.

I knew of a local legend, a steel net, that masked off a vertical mine shaft. It had taken two years to find it in the old mining area that stands over the Little Pueblo. During that two years, the idea of a bottomless mine shaft became my obsession.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

No Ridicule for Dud Left-Wing Doomsters

The laughter and ridicule aimed at the latest religious doomsday prophet made me sick. It's not that he wasn't a knave and a fool. But at least he accomplished his knavery the old-fashioned way: by talking saps and suckers out of their own money.

There is no accountability and ridicule for the doomsday prophets of the secular Left. Most of them have made lucrative careers based on the taxpayers' money. The most spectacular example is Al Gore and the Global Warming scam.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Swallows near a Coffee Shop

This is the last of the swallow homebuilder photos. I promise. With hindsight I really appreciate how lucky I was a couple weeks ago to see and photograph them during their maximum presence near my coffee shop. I haven't seen them since.

I was surprised how contentious these birds were with each other. It wasn't exactly a replay of the harmonious, Amish, barn-raising scene in the Harrison Ford movie, Witness. Nor did it make me want to go out and buy Hillary Clinton's It Takes a Village. If anything, these swallows were fans of Ayn Rand.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

American Gladiators

I was trying to extract some sympathy from my neighbor about jury duty, or rather, why I should be excused from it. I complied with the court order to fill out my questionnaire honestly and completely. But the court order does not prohibit one from also being candid as well as honest, since candidness is just the particular form of honesty in which you offer more information than they perhaps wanted to hear.

For instance, when they ask whether I would consider evidence legitimate if it came from a convict who is bargaining with the State, I said in no uncertain terms that I consider such evidence dubious and probably contaminated.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Flower and Petroglyph?

Is that a petroglyph of a bicycle in the upper left corner? I love close-up photography. There are interesting details that you wouldn't take the time to notice otherwise. Seeing those serrations on the ends of the flower petals surprised me more than driving up the standard scenic viewpoint of the Grand Canyon.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Van/Pickup Camping Versus a Land Yacht?

Box Canyon Blogger reprimanded me for my amateurish and emotional accounting: he thought I should stop obsessing over $4 gasoline since it doesn't really amount to that much at the end of a year. Indeed, it's easy to overemphasize gasoline prices because of their high visibility.

The beauty of being a full time RVer, in a traditional land yacht, is that a retiree can kiss off the burdens of being a stick-and-brick houseowner; not just the financial burdens, but the domination of your ever-dwindling time by repairs, maintenance, remodeling, and buying excessive crap that you don't need just because you have space to put it. (Not that you'll ever be able to actually find that crap when you need it.)

There is something even worse about house-slavery if you believe that true Evil is a banal and insidious thing: in a house you settle into soul-numbing routines centered around comfort, cleaning, and other trivia. One day leads comfortably to the next and you don't remember any of them at the end of the year. (By the way, how many non-doctor-dominated years do you still have?)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The New Paradigm on the Desktop

Anyone who has an inflated ego should just spend more time as an amateur prophet in the business world, politics, or any place actually. That said, Google's Chromebook seems more portentous than anything we've seen in the computer industry for years. I am willing to believe that, five to ten years from now, Washington state politicians will be frantically patching up a government bailout of Microsoft Corp., which will then be called Government Software. The future might be as dark for anti-virus firms like Symantec, or for regular PC manufacturers like Toshiba, Dell, and HP.

In order for Google's Chromebook to supplant Microsoft Windows and Office as the desktop standard, there must be an enormous expansion in internet traffic. So the biggest beneficiary of the new paradigm might be the telecommunications industry.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Is Camping a Demotion from RVing?

For somebody who has experienced both sides of it, the short answer to the title question is 'yes'. But it's in the interest of some RVers to trick it into a 'no'. That is my current project.

By 'camping' I mean short-term sleeping/hauling/sitting in a sub-RV, as opposed to 365 days per year of living/walking in a big RV. I might want to camp for as long as one month, a few hours drive from where I live permanently in an RV park in my no-longer-roadworthy travel trailer.

Horse Sense

What would my kelpie, Coffee Girl, do if she were free to bother a horseman? Would the horse rear up and kick off the rider? I used to worry about it. One day this fellow was walking this young horse on Gabbie's Ridge. It seemed like a good chance to test Coffee Girl. She ran up and sniffed at the horse a little, while the horse kicked slightly at the dog. No harm done. Both were rather calm about the whole thing. What a relief. I suppose horses grow up with ranch dogs around here.

I'm glad to see a horse culture hanging on in the West, although just barely. For the most part, the economy seems based on retirement housing and healthcare.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Paradise Lost

It was a quiet and contented life here in the Little Pueblo of the New Mexican highlands. But several friends saw this former RV Boondocker and Explorer as living in a Fallen state, by degenerating into a sedentary lifestyle without the usual excuses of old age, bad health, or domestic servitude to a woman.

One pair of RV-based interlopers brought some embarrassing news -- embarrassing because it shows how lazy I was about studying the rules of early IRA withdrawal. By invoking the SEPP option, an IRA owner can make penalty-free withdrawals before he's 59.5 years old, with a couple catches of course. But the catches aren't bad.

Prior to this knowledge I was hunkering down to make it to age 59.5 without making any early withdrawals. Perhaps it was just a matter of pride. Early retirement is a serious game in beating the System, and eating a penalty for early withdrawal seemed like a defeat.

There was something about it all that suggested a battle between Good and Evil, as was the original effort to retire early. I had invented a non-mobile lifestyle that was pleasant, healthy, and frugal enough to win the game.

And then these two busybodies-on-wheels came along and robbed me of the Drama and Significance of human existence. Sigh. This calls for a little metaphor-mining from the cinema. An Ideal Husband is a recent movie rendition of a play by Oscar Wilde. The femme fatale, played by Julianne Moore, made a fine living by marrying rich men who conveniently died early. She wanted to extend her winning streak by convincing wealthy and handsome Lord Goring (Rupert Everett) to have a go with her, despite him being a resolute bachelor.

In addition to applying her feminine wiles she was also blackmailing Lord Goring's best friend. Her offer was that if Lord Goring agreed to marry her, she would give him the letter that provided the blackmail evidence against his best friend.
Julianne Moore character: 'Here is a chance to rise to great heights of self-sacrifice. I think you should, and then spend the rest of your life contemplating your own perfection.'

Lord Goring, Rupert Everett character: 'I do that as it is.'
Yes, 'rising to great heights of self-sacrifice' might be putting it a bit melodramatically, but it was a great challenge to retire early. Avoiding early withdrawal of an IRA was an echo of that. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Male of a Quail

It's a guy thing, I guess. Or maybe this Gambel quail is just trying to warm up instead of looking macho.

12 Angry Boonies

Whew! I just completed a 27-page questionnaire for serving on the jury of a Federal case in which a conviction could lead to the death penalty. Since I live 100 miles from the courtroom and have no way of getting there, I expect to be passed over. Still, I had to fill the questionnaire out completely and honestly.

As a libertarian, more or less, it pains me to admit that the System did a fair and just job with the questions. In fact you could write a long essay in response to many of their rather philosophical questions. Typically they gave two lines for the response, but what else could they do?

I have never served on a jury before; this trial is expected to take 6-8 weeks. Naturally I don't want to serve. Gee, would they let a juror carry a netbook into the jury box and write essays about the judicial system?

Who knows what answers on the questionnaire the System is looking for. My guess is that they're looking for the lack of anything that either side objects to, rather than for the positive existence of anything. Isn't that how any System works?

It was a strange situation to be in; even delightful in its own way. Normally bluntness and candor are harmful to one's cause -- it entails risks of different kinds, makes enemies, etc. -- but in this case I shot from both hips, knowing that the more they knew about me, the more likely I was to get out of serving. 

After I filled out the questionnaire you can guess which classic courtroom drama I watched.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Hiding the Cost of Mandates with Finance

Eric Peters is not my favorite pundit. He actually likes cars.

One of the reasons why this blog is anonymous is that I don't see why readers would be that interested in me personally; in contrast, ideas and opinions are -- or at least can be -- more interesting.

But in this case a brief autobiographical note might be called for: I grew up in a small town in the industrial Midwest, back in olden times when there actually was industry in America. Small town culture completely revolves around the automobile, right down to the conception of children. It often seemed that the bigger moron a person was, the more they worshiped cars. My parents, on the other hand, were indifferent to the contraptions, and spent as little as possible on them.

Peters's editorial today was excellent. It brings some universal aspects of American government and society down to earth, by discussing car loans and the car shopper mentality. It is seditious. That's what we need a lot more of in this society.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Another Wreck

An Un-photographed Owl

I was mountain biking along a scenic ridge the other day when I was startled by some large and noisy animal on the ground, just a few feet in front of me. A deer would have been a good guess. There is nothing exciting about a deer, but I didn't want myself or the bike to get kicked by those snapping hoofs.

It was no deer. It was a large owl that took off from ground level. Well, we've all seen an owl at one time in our lives, but I've never seen one that close. Its big head reminded me of a small football helmet. I didn't see the specific place where it landed, but it might have been at the tree where a half dozen small birds started screaming bloody murder.

It certainly would have been a pleasure to photograph this owl, but it would have taken a helmet mounted video camera. I knew of a mountain biker who did that.

Long-suffering readers know that I am always railing against the perverted aesthetic of nature that is common in our society. I know what made this owl impressive: give the credit to a teacup yorkie who lives in my RV park. Every couple days I cross paths with him and try to win him as a friend, but he lacks confidence. Somebody was joking that he was real owl-bait. Indeed. And it was the horror of that image that made the experience of seeing the owl memorable and interesting to me.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Quail of a Tail

Actually there is no tale today. But it was good to get my first photograph of quails after being startled by them a thousand times. My dog has gotten quite fond of charging into bushes to flush them out; she looks like a bowling ball scattering the pins. There is a small dust storm after this, but I'm not sure if the cause is the dog or the furious beating of quail wings.

The male half of the Gambel quail couple in on the right.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Free Advice to Young RVers

I am still grateful to the lady who explained to me that introverts are certainly capable of enjoying human companionship and conversation, but they feel drained afterwards. Then they need time alone in order to recharge. In contrast, extroverts actually feel stimulated and charged up by human interaction. At the time I was a bicycle tour leader and experienced proof of her theory on every tour.

This anecdote ties in with my recent role as a host to other RVers who are traveling through the Little Pueblo. It wasn't totally accidental: it is spring after all, and the seasonal sybarites of Arizona are headed north and east. But my goodness, three visitors in one week! Life has become a social whirl and I'm exhausted.

It was especially fun to meet a younger RVer, Glenn of toSimplify.net, who is even younger than I was when I got started in this racket. Of course, he is cheating: he is still working. Seriously, it is interesting to see the internet result in qualitative changes in how people live. (We are used to technology making quantitative improvements in speed and convenience about one thing or another, but such improvements are prone to the criticism that Thoreau famously made: that they are improved means to an unimproved end.) In his case, he can do his music thing while on the road and ship his product back to the boss in Los Angeles via the internet.

It is not easy to be a demographic misfit as Glenn most certainly is. Many people have read the book, Blue Highways. (psstt... it's over-rated. Don't buy it.) Once, at the beginning of his solo journey across America in a mini-van, a woman in Tennessee asked the author if he ever got lonely when traveling. She said that if she was doing what the author/traveler was doing, she'd at least have a dog. The author got a bit indignant: he thought the point of travel was to bump into interesting people and talk to them. (Talk about naive. Why would interesting people necessarily be within 100 feet of a paved highway?)

Later in the book, the author admitted that he had gotten flat-out lonely and that maybe he should have listened to the woman back in Tennessee. (He should have.)

My other wise-old-man advice to Glenn was to make longer stays in his favorite spots and get to know people who live there. (That is, forget about socializing with RVers, as such. Here today, gone tomorrow.) It's true that local yokels might never accept him as a real resident and will only see him as a licensed lunatic since his house has wheels under it, but partial successes do count.

After the fizzy romanticism of RV travel has worn off, it becomes a way of life, not an extended vacation. More than that, it should be seen as a serious profession. Any profession has brutal facts of life that the individual cannot immediately change. All he can do is take a professional pride in being tough in facing up to the brutal facts, working around them as best he can, or at least tolerating them.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day

It still feels strange to cycle in shorts instead of long pants. Could a transition from cold to hot really happen so quickly? Maybe you have to sense nature primarily through the skin to appreciate this.

At any rate, after the ride over the Continental Divide -- practically in the city limits here -- I was relaxing with a coffee at my favorite shop downtown. Swallows were putting on quite an "air show". They are real hot shots; the original "Top Guns".

About ten swallows were constructing nests at the interior corners of a concrete roof. This was the first time in my life that I've seen such a good example of this, and just think, it was Mother's Day!

How do they cling to hard and vertical concrete surfaces?

Do they have suction cups on that tail?

While facing these little hot shots and photographing the crap out of them, my back faced an interesting sculpture and water fountain. ("Interesting" to a guy who usually doesn't appreciate the arts.) A memory fluttered into my mind: sigh, what a shame that those three beautiful and wonderful females weren't here today, on Mother's Day.

On one of our many cool air/warm sun days this winter my kelpie, Coffee Girl, and I were relaxing at this same sculpture/fountain after a mountain bike ride. An attractive young mother and her 4-year-old daughter invited themselves over. The girl still had the blond hair that little gringos sometimes have, and it was curly. She was a doll, and it was obvious where she got the genes from.

Why was I being so lucky? Ahh yes, the young mother could tell that my dog was gentle and ridiculously friendly and happy. Maybe she wanted her little daughter to have a good learning experience with dogs. All three of these creatures walked around the fountain, interacting and talking with each other. I paid no attention to what was actually said, but only to how pleasing it sounded. It was as melodious as the falling water of the fountain. The warm winter sun was hitting my back and soon I relaxed into semi-conscious nothingness.

The rock sculpture was made of layered rocks that resembled a mother, father, and child. With those three lovely girls walking around the fountain, I wondered why people go to national parks or wilderness areas to be impressed with Nature. And why did I surrender so easily to the diktats of the animal shelter in having my female dog spayed?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tuff and Tolstoy

After visiting the dilapidated old hospital the other day, my visitor and I wandered over to a geologic oddity in our area, where a codgerish RV friend was camped. (And a high quality campsite it was.) Due to the sybaritic sleeping habits of a couple members of our conversational quartet, we arrived too late to get really good photographs of this interesting pile of giant boulders.

My first question at the visitor's center was: why here and not ten miles away? Well, cuz this is whar the rocks iz, the volunteer guide answered. (I rolled my eyes.) Let's try this again: what is so special about the local geology that spectacular rocks are found only here, and not over the entire local area?

Actually I'm just having some fun at the volunteer guide's expense. After a slow start he cranked up to give good explanations of how a local volcano deposited a layer of volcanic tuff over the area. Then they vertically cracked and eroded until most have disappeared; only in this one state park has the rock layer survived. Therefore all of this eye candy is just another example of decay, noble rot, dilapidation.

In a sense, these rocks are soul mates of the dilapidated fort of yesterday and of the Cliff Dwellings before that. One of the reasons that New Mexico is the Foremost of the Four Corner states is that we have more ruins of all kinds. Actually, my favorite ones are the most common: the century-old ranch houses, with rusted corrugated sheet metal roofs, and with adobe spalling off the walls.

There is an underlying theme to many of these disparate monuments of noble rot. Help me here, what was that famous quote by Tolstoy?; something about every happy family being happy in the same way, but miserable families being so in different ways. I was never really sure that I agreed with that proverb, but something like it applies to noble rot.

Every building or topographic feature that is modern is banal, mass-produced, sterile, and uninteresting. But when they age they become individualistic and beautiful in a quirky sort of way.

Friday, May 6, 2011

It's Only a Dry Beauty

My visitor and I wandered over to the old fort to check things out.

It was so tinder-dry around that area, and that made for unpleasant walking through dry brush. We avoided most of it since my companion lacked the sort of clothing that would have been natural in that area. (He wears shorts in the Southwest! grin)

It's probably a common thing to go somewhere to see something, and then finding the mind drift off to something quite different.

I wondered how I got sucked into appreciating the beauty of dry texture. Do you select a retirement area because you carry a latent image in your head, and then the land develops the image? 'Beauty' is different than mere prettiness of course. Did other people who live in this area get sucked into the same thing?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cliff Dwellings

After two and a half years of living in the Little Pueblo I finally made it to the local attraction, the Gila Cliff Dwellings. I was surprised by how interesting the scenery was on the way there: good viewpoints and deep canyons. In the background is one of the branches of the mighty Gila River, before Phoenix gets its paws on it. The "porches" faced to the south; very comfortable, all year around.

Just when the photograph was framed the way I wanted it, an interloper wandered into it. At first I thought he was some kind of New Age/Native American shaman. I dunno. I didn't know that Hawaiian shirts and shorts were sacred to the Native Americans.

May Flowers

Why don't I know the name of these white flowers that show up in May every year? This is the first one for this year. They are probably no big deal to a generic viewer; you have to live somewhere to appreciate certain things; they can't be appreciated just as eye candy.

I don't know why, but I like shadows of stamen and photographing flowers from the backside.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Phony War

Marketwatch.com is not one of my favorite financial websites, and I don't read that many editorials by Brett Arends, one of their columnists. But he certainly did a good job of taking bin Laden's demise as a good opportunity for summing up the "War on Terror". Good work, Brett.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sweet 16

My little poodle, Pancho, celebrates his 16th birthday this week. He has no illness or pain that I know of. But he has the usual old-dog issues like deafness and maybe 50% of his eyesight left.

After the coyote attack last autumn (click the Dancing with Wolves tab at the top of the screen) I restricted him to walking on the leash. When he started slowing down and losing interest in going on walks, I was a bit slow to see cause and effect. Another dog owner told me how her last old dog loved eating and going on car rides right to the end. I wondered if I should take Pancho out in the BOB trailer that fits behind a bicycle and let him go off-leash. So I did both.

He started acting a whole year younger! What a little scamp. Seriously, his "hearing" has even improved, by which I mean his mental alertness has improved to react to what little hearing is left. But we saw the coyote close to camp a couple days ago. So his off-leash distance from me must be kept short!

I'm not sure who is more worn, my old poodle or the bicycle seat. But they still serve an important purpose in this old world of ours.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Downtown Criterium, Day 4

I don't know of anything that makes the menacing whrrr'ing sound of a peloton of cyclists in a criterium race, especially when they are descending one of the hills on the back side of the course.

During my RV traveling years I always fantasized living downtown in an old mining town. There are only three or four real possibilities in each state. I have started to look for an apartment in downtown Little Pueblo, where unfortunately the second stories of most commercial buildings are empty or abandoned.

I wonder how prevalent this sort of fantasy is for baby-boomers who grew up in standard suburban Dullsvilles, with 100% reliance on automobiles built into the lifestyle; there's not so much as a sidewalk in those places.