Monday, May 22, 2017

How Real World Experience Affects Political Theories

Although I am not one of them, there are people who enjoy reading political science or 'theory of government' books. It would be interesting to see what a person of that type would go through if exiled from their reading lamp to the right place in the real world.

Let them take a campground hosting job for awhile. Quite aware that my suzerainty is much better than the average gig, or rather, that its clientele is much above average, I am still affected by the experience. It gives me a chance to see how people behave when they act as they really want to act.
  1. Many people immediately turn to generating noise, destruction, or filth. 
  2. Unmindfulness of the consequences of their own behavior on their neighbors, who have an equal right to enjoy their public land.
  3. Using a construction site generator to power a microwave oven to make a cup of tea or coffee. Are they really unable to understand that they can heat a pan of water on the propane stove in 3 minutes?
  4. Do they need high power appliances in their RV, including a 54" diagonal television set?
  5. The redneckization and ghetto-ization of American popular culture. You see that every time a codpiece pickup truck comes into camp, with thumpah-thumpah "music" pounding the ground around it. More than anything else it is the music that makes me feel completely unpatriotic toward what used to be "my" country.
  6. And speaking of codpieces, why does almost every one of these suburbanites and city slickers have a four-wheel-drive machine, while I -- a guy who could actually benefit from one -- do not have one?
  7. Why am I the only mountain biker who uses the flatter trails -- which are actually appropriate for a self-powered, wheeled machine? Put differently, why don't people hike on rough rocky trails, and pedal on smoother flatter trails?
  8. How citified and feminized our culture has become. The more someone thinks they are a 'nature lover,' the bigger of a fraud they probably are.
The good news is these annoyances are quite minimal in my suzerainty, for which I am grateful. For instance, after a busy Mother's Day weekend, there wasn't a scrap of litter left at our campsites. Wonderful!

Experience with real people in the real world persuades one to see the great deity of democracy as having 'feet of clay.' How could we be brainwashed with the notion that it represents some kind of perfect theory? Readers are encouraged to talk me out of spiraling down into a preference for mildly repressive authoritarian regimes.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Outdoor Perfection

I actually got a picture of both of them disporting on the ridge, but it isn't worth showing. After all, that is the whole point.

Chilly, dry air. A mostly blue sky, with a few puffy clouds. And just enough cool breeze to stimulate without annoying. But I wasn't the only creature to respond to the breeze. A turkey buzzard was using ridge-lift to fly along, almost effortlessly.

A mountain bike, a dog, and a turkey buzzard. I thought my dog was tired until she saw that turkey buzzard. Then she blasted across the ridge, using the trail as her route -- quite surprising. The turkey buzzard was curious about her, but didn't taunt her as much as a dastardly raven would.

It doesn't get any better than this. But you're not telling us anything new, the long-suffering reader is thinking. But I don't care. I'm not trying to invent something, I'm merely trying to wallow in something good.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Defeating the Prevailing Tourist Culture

Stepping out of your camper early on a cool windy morning, you don't expect to be greeted by a slithering rattlesnake. But there it was, sidewinding its way from the tow vehicle to my trailer door. Of course, it could have been a bull snake, but I didn't have time to ask questions. It was strange how purposeful and sentient its behavior seemed.

I chased it underneath the trailer. I cringed when it wrapped itself around the axle and then expanded its circle to fill up the inside of the wheel. Hey wait a minute, don't I have holes in the floor? This snake was becoming alarming.

I kept chasing the snake with rocks, a broom, and then a (short!) mattock. He knew I was after him. When I circled around him, he would turn his head to face me, head on. He also retracted into a multiple-sigmoid shape, and struck at me, several times. Finally the mattock cut him in half.

But he didn't die right away. He lacked rattles, so perhaps he was a noble bull snake, who is supposed to be the enemy of rattlers. (There wasn't time to check the internet to see if immature rattlers completely lack visible rattles at the end of their tail.) If I'd had a camera, a video could have zoomed in and recorded the death-throes of the snake. These were quite horrible. 

By now I was feeling guilty: I hadn't really killed anything other than insects since I was a high school lad who did a little hunting. Hunting didn't really interest me. It seemed like incompetent, amateurish assassination to merely pull the trigger on a powerful piece of technology. True hunting should be more chivalrous. Your foe should have a chance to fight back, and if you do manage to vanquish your valiant foe in a fair fight on the field of honour...

But let's not head off to a Sir Walter Scott novel. This fight with the snake occurred on the same day as the good conversation with the man who was filling his truck with the spring water. What a remarkable piece of luck it was to have experienced authentic and fundamental nature twice in one day. It shows that you shouldn't be too discouraged by the tourist kitsch of Taos or some such place.

How the tourists in Taos visualize Nature. (Except that the photo needs pretty butterflies and wildflowers.)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Authenticity Surrounded by Taos Tourism

If you want to lose confidence in your own judgement, just try visiting the famous plaza in Taos, NM. First you will have to fight traffic and struggle for a place to park. Then you will walk around, visit a shop or two, and put up with aggressive store workers and high prices.

Then a seditious thought lays hold of you: that there is nothing "famous" about the place. A visit to the downtown area in any small city in Mexico (or any place with a Mediterranean culture) is more interesting, chaotic, free, colorful, and authentic than Taos, NM.

But if that's true, what are all the tourists doing here? There are a hundred of them for every one of you. Are you going to claim that you are so much smarter or have such superior taste to the hundred?

Perhaps one reason that some of the suckers are there is that the previous president abused the Antiquities Act to declare a gigantic area nearby a national monument. The Antiquities Act is not should not be a way for a presidential signature to bypass Congress's responsibility in declaring a national park. But mass-tourists from the big city don't care about legal fine points like that. You have to crawl into their heads to see this.  I thought I did a pretty good job of that in my favorite post in all these years of blogging, on a tab at the top of the screen, entitled "Shopping at the Nature Mall."

But it is too easy to walk around Taos and feel superior to dumbshit tourists from the big city. It is also too easy to feel discouraged. Instead, let's see if we can find something authentic near all this phoniness. I was lucky...
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Considering how much traveling and camping I have done, it is strange that I have drunk water from nature only once. I was camped at nearly 9000 feet at Cuba, NM. A little spring was gushing water. I asked somebody in a nearby campground, and learned that it was safe.

What a shame! What could be more important and more real than water, especially in the Southwest. While camped in the Rio Grande gorge close to Taos, my dog and I went on a mountain bike ride along a dirt road. We saw a surprising sign about, "Caution, Water Hauling Trucks." Then we came upon a pickup truck with a giant water tank being filled from a hose coming from a spring.

Just think of this experience from a qualitative point of view, rather than the usual touristic one. Yes the gorge cut into the lava is impressive. 


But the scenery isn't world-class, as it is at Moab or in the San Juan mountains. I'm afraid the tourists are going to find a certain devaluing in the spectacular-ness of the scenery as presidents declare places to be national park wannabees. That is, they are running out of truly spectacular scenery.

But, thinking about that fellow filling his tank with spring water, it makes you think of this solid-looking volcanic lava differently. Maybe it is filled with cracks, and is rather permeable. I have seen ponderosa pines sink roots through the cracks of lava that come right to the surface along the Mogollon Rim in Arizona.

It was gratifying to see some bighorn sheep.


This is only the second time I have seen a large number of them, so it should have been special. Oddly though, it was disappointing. Perhaps that is because I held my dog back, now that this is a national monument. That took all the drama out of it. It makes the sheep seem too placid and cyootsie-wootsie. Wildlife doesn't seem authentic unless it functions as prey or predator.

Outside of an over-regulated tourist trap, we have had more authentic experiences:


Wow, this guy thinks he's fast. But watch this, Pops!

Hot dang, this is fun, this 'being in harmony with nature' stuff.

 Isn't real nature supposed to be 'red in tooth and claw'?

Alexander the Great would have been pleased with the phalanx formed by these Bighorns in fending off the 'big bad wolf,' aka, Coffee Girl.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Creating the Perfect Tow Vehicle Out of Imperfection

Wiser men than I have fallen victim to the 'previous investment trap.' That is my official excuse for taking so long to turn an imperfect -- and steadily worsening -- tow vehicle situation into a drastically better choice. 

(Since I refuse to carry a mountain bike on the outside of a vehicle, my tow vehicle choices are restricted to a van or a pickup with a heavy, expensive cap on the back. I am afraid the white cargo van has become such a stereotype that it will receive prejudicial treatment from rangers.)

In fact I haven't been this pleased and excited for a long time. There really is something to be said for agonizing over a problem for a long time before finally 'hitting the ball out of the park.' It adds drama to life.

When I put the doggie door into the rear cargo ramp in my cargo trailer, I finally broke free of the Previous Investment Trap. I abandoned the idea of making a screen room out of the back of the trailer, and decided to see if the mountain bike could be mounted on the cargo ramp.

Could it really be this easy?

i

But won't the bike snag or jam something as you raise it to the inside?


Nope. It is the same each time, so the empty space around the bike can be filled with storage bags or boxes.

But what about the chain reaction this was supposed to cause inside my trailer? It only took a day to work all that out. A bit of downsizing helped. Having the bike inside has only made things slightly more cramped.

The end result is that my next tow vehicle can be 'anything.' It will probably be a Chevy Silverado pickup or a Nissan Frontier. No cap will be necessary. I'll put a couple wheel-well tool boxes in the bed of the truck.

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But how does any of this help the reader if they are under different circumstances? The details don't, of course. But if we back up a step at look at the principles involved in the problem solving, it can be useful. 

1. Rebelling against the Previous Investment Trap.

2. Hitting a 'double' on the rear cargo door before trying to hit a 'home run.' (Think of the cautious, build-on-small successes taken by the USA and the UK in rolling back the Wehrmacht in North Africa, then Sicily, then Italy. Also, consider the island hopping by General MacArthur in the Pacific war of World War II.)

3. Being nudged by comments on this blog and on other blogs. Not trying to operate in a vacuum. Not surrendering to the romantic nonsense of the solitary inventor.

4. Realizing that I am dissuaded by a half dozen small disadvantages to some approach, because I have a tendency to exaggerate the cumulative effect of all of these. Perhaps it is the messy clutter that makes me lazy.

5. Solving the tow truck conundrum by not falling into the 'take that hill, boys' approach of a stupid general. The general should try a flanking movement or move his offensive to an off-center theater of operations. (Consider the success that General Sherman had in the Chattanooga/Atlanta/Savannah theater in the American War Between the States. I believe that, despite its failure, the Gallipoli operation in the Great War was brilliant. It failed because of tactical mistakes.)

6. The consequences of stubborn, moral intransigence. Even though my current mountain bike only has garage sale resale value, I have simply refused to transport it on the outside of a vehicle. That created the conundrum in the first place.

But I'm glad I didn't surrender on this point. 

7. Forcing myself to give in on something before I could expect to gain something.

8. Although it has never been a habit of mine to look back at a solved problem and lay out the principles involved, it should have been. It should be.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Any Way to Get an Authentic Native American Experience?

Long-suffering readers probably think that Native Americans are among my favorite piñatas, but that's not really true. But it is true of the gringo's romanticization of Native Americans. 

Earlier I wrote about how easily charmed I once was by an Indian squaw carrying her papoose around in a laundromat I was using at the time. I insist on believing that she learned that trick from her mother or grandmother, and not from a college course called, "Native American Heritage 101," taught by a professor with a federal grant. This proves I am a bigot with a heart of gold.

The best places to think about this issue of Authenticity versus Romanticization are those where the juxtaposition of the two things is extreme.  Consider the northwestern edge of burgeoning St. George, UT: there an upscale gringo retirement enclave lives only a few miles from a small and raggedy-assed rez. 

Another, and larger scale example, is Santa Fe versus Española, NM. (That latter is a rez town that makes Gallup, NM look like a "Leave it to Beaver" neighorhood.) We won't even get started on Santa Fe art galleries, Georgia O'Keefe, or Native American chic. But I wonder how many tourists who are taken in by the chic of Santa Fe ever visit Española, and what they think about it. 

When I go to a rez town, I always wonder who is responsible for what I'm seeing.
  1. Is it the Native American themselves? If so, no wonder why they were conquered. 
  2. Is it the welfare state culture of the rez, unemployment, and several generations of miscegenation?
  3. Or is it the legacy of conquest and defeat. If so, how does it compare to other defeated tribes, such as Southerners at the hands of the Yankees, or Anglo-Saxon 'dogs' at the hands of the Normans?
I really don't have the answer to any of these questions. Oh, one could read books by academics about issues of this type, but what would you get other than PC ideology?

As I was typing this, a fellow drove my trailer door a bit too closely. He slowed down and appeared to look through the window. Perhaps I will leave it to other tourists to park here overnight. I will go somewhere else to live in harmony with nature and contemplate the animals and plants that were sacred to the Native American.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

How to Croak Alone in the Woods, Without Killing Your Pet

The marketing department here at the Institute for Advanced Recreational Studies barely approved of this post. "This isn't the topic to increase clicks," they tried to explain.

Still, the problem remains for a solo camper who wants their pet to survive their sudden and unexpected demise while camping alone. Just imagine the situation for a ranger or emergency personnel: they must bust into a rig, and what do they find? Pet urine and feces, and probably vomit. The pet might still be alive. They also encounter a partially eaten human carcass. If your pet is a dog, it would have actually felt bad about that. But what choice did it have?

Presumably, this would not look good on your pet's adoption resumé at an animal rescue organization. Then again, a clever worker there might advertise, "Fluffie has shown herself to be self-reliant and resourceful..."

There is a solution available: a doggie door. Few products in this price range have improved the lives of owners and pets so much. The typical customer works long hours and doesn't want their poor dog to have to 'hold it' for 10 hours per day.  

I saw one of these doors in action at a friend's house. It was impressive how much her dog depended on it -- and liked it. Doggie doors are available at Lowe's, Home Depot, pet stores, online, etc. I bought the Ruff Weather model by Ideal Pet Products. 

Campers with cargo trailers have an advantage in installing a doggie door. But most campers have wives, who wouldn't be caught dead (oops) in such an unfashionable rig. But most conventional camper-trailers have flat surfaces, at least on the sides. All but the largest doggie doors would fit between the 16 inch studs of any conventional camper trailer, if you could find the studs. 

Rigs such as vans or Airstreams have curved surfaces that would complicate the installation of a doggie door. Perhaps thick enough weather stripping or even a curved board would accommodate the curve.

But does my Coffee Girl appreciate this improvement?  


Friday, April 21, 2017

Thinking My Way Out of a Dead End


Finally I have some good news to report about my new tow vehicle.  There are so many headwinds to face, thanks to easy financing by the Federal Reserve and more restrictive regulations coming from Washington, DC.  I have complained about these trends before, so today I want to discuss this on a different level. Let's think of it as an example of problem-solving in general. 

There's no point in pissing and moaning about these negative trends because I can't do anything about them, other than work around them as well as I can.

Even though I have fewer options for tow vehicles compared to the past, I have more options than other campers. 

Depending on how you categorize these tow vehicles, I have a half dozen options. None of them are terrible. So what is the basic approach here? So far, I have always thought myself half to death by trying to come up with one more option: one magical, exciting, new option that revolutionized the situation  -- something that I had somehow overlooked.

This approach seemed so irresistible. But it produced nothing. Finally I faced up to the fact that this was just juvenile romanticism.

Look at what I was doing to each of my half dozen half-decent options: I was immediately assassinating them with a 'yea, but...'

What if I actually acted like an adult, for a change, and accepted these half dozen options as being the 'hand of cards that I have been dealt', and tried to improve one or two of them, instead of running off to escapist romanticism about a whole new option? Well, I did it, and it worked: nothing radical, but a noticeable improvement of what existed before.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Predatory Truck Consumer Smacks His Lips

One of these days I will give up the bad habit of reading doom-and-gloom financial blogs. They don't do their readers any good. They are the proverbial 'broken clock that gives the right time, twice a day.'

These days they are screaming about how bad automobile sales are. Through the alchemy of confirmation bias, I seem to see a glut of automobiles for sale in make-shift parking lots where they don't even belong.

It is time to actually believe the doom-and-gloomers when the prices actually go down. Still, it is easy to believe them after the insane auto industry trends of the last seven years. The very apotheosis of these trends is the ridiculous size and popularity of pickup trucks. But don't let me get started on that...

Right now, all a consumer can do is visualize a serious predator, like a mountain lion or wolf, spotting a herd of unsuspecting deer. The predator moves in carefully, so as not to alarm the herd. And the predators allow themselves no demonstrativeness more than licking their chops.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

An Alternative to Being Angry at the News

It happens so often: you see a couple options on some issue, and you're not happy with either of them. So, where is the third choice?

With all the depressing news these days, the two obvious choices are:

1. Sit in front of the television, and passively allow yourself to be brainwashed by the spin and lies from the corporate media and the American War regime.

2. Read the alternative media, and try to maintain the integrity of your own mind, as you spew anger out your ears or stew in sourness. It becomes exhausting after awhile.

As an alternative, I have praised reading history as a way of escape.

The other day I accidentally hit on another alternative. I happened to listen to Richard Rodgers's musical theme for the 'Good War' myth-making classic, "Victory at Sea." In fairness, this documentary wasn't nearly as narrow and jingoistic as you would expect.

The music sounds so noble and uplifting. It had just the right balance of optimism and gravitas. It was a musical expression of the great foundational/creation myth of the War Regime in Washington.

Like any memorable movie score, it combines synergistically with the visual images. The subject matter of "Victory at Sea" was drastically better at myth-making than a realistic depiction of infantry war would have been.

In "Victory at Sea" you see the most powerful weapons of the Age, blasting away at each other. You don't see any human bodies that got in the way of those 16" shells.
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I don't know why, but it soothes me to wash my hands of the daily ephemera in the News, and run off to something timeless and classic. A calm detachment. As if lies aren't bad enough, there is something degrading about a human being's 'soul' being caught up in daily trivia.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Trump's Post-White-House Career

I am officially going on record as predicting that Trump is going to be a one-term president. It is reasonable to ask what his plans are for his emeritus years. An ex-president should do something with a certain amount of importance; but it shouldn't be too strenuous, either.

Perhaps he should get on the board of United Airlines. Maybe he can drain the swamp there.

Friday, April 7, 2017

President Obama/Trump Makes America Great Again

I wasn't paying any attention to the news for a few days. So it was shocking to learn of President Dubya/Obama/Hilary/theDonald's attack on Syria. But why was I surprised?

Donald Trump doesn't have the patience for walking important legislation through Congress. He is no deal-making, arm-twisting, cajoling political leader. Who cares whether Americans can afford health care, college,  or $60,000 pickup trucks. He is simply an egotistical, knee-jerking, publicity hound, who is going to enjoy military bluster around the globe.

That's why I wouldn't vote for him (or the other candidate.)

I have a lot of catching up to do with reading editorials. So far, they look pretty good. But then again, they are missing the point. It doesn't matter about the Why or the Who Did It. It only matters that a large fraction of the American public likes having a militaristic strong man in the White House.

They ain't got no interest in nambie pambie doubts and complaints such as:

1. What legal right did Trump have?

2. Has Syria attacked the USA?

3. What vital American interest is at stake?

4. What reason would Assad have to play with chemical weapons, when he is winning the war anyway?

5. If president Obama/Trump did succeed in deposing Assad, who would replace him, and why would he be any better?

6. What the hell is the USA doing in Syria anyway?

But jingoes don't care about that. They want to stick out their chests and walk with an extra bounce in their steps because they feel strong. Their country is strong. They wanted a president who said he'd make America great again, and -- according to the jingoes -- the president has. No arguments matter.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Apotheosis of the American Dream

What a pleasure it has been to learn how to use my Android smartphone! Granted, everybody else on planet Earth went through this seven years ago. I even took a couple photos, just so I would know how. But I think I'll continue to carry a regular digital camera, with its 18X optical zoom.

Perhaps I should reconsider that. After all, the smartphone is always with you. For instance, yesterday I missed a potentially great photograph. Long-suffering readers know that that means a photograph that tells a story, or is a visual metaphor of an important part of the human condition. They also know what it doesn't mean: a purdy picher.

I had just finished the appointment with an attorney who made my last will and testament, then went to knock off other errands before the migration north begins. I got rid of an annoying aluminum extension ladder that I have carried in my van, after replacing it with a collapsible telescoping ladder.

As I rolled into the landfill to dispose of the ladder, it struck me how strange it was to be there on the same day that I signed my first will.  There was a message here. But composing an essay takes time. It would have been nice to take a photo of the dump, and think of a good caption or essay later. 

There is something thought-provoking about visiting a landfill -- as there is at a graduation ceremony, wedding, or funeral -- even for people who don't do a lot of deep thinking. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The RV Boondocking Blabbermouth Syndrome

No doubt, over the years, many ex-readers noticed that this blog just wasn't what they hoped for. It wasn't helpful to beginners. It wouldn't wallow in practical details. It didn't even give google map screenshots or GPS coordinates of boondocking sites.

The disappointed reader probably thought, "What a selfish fellow! He wants to suppress information that would benefit his fellow RVers. To hell with him then, I'll just read a nicer person's blog.  They have more pretty pictures anyway, and I won't have to keep looking up words..."

The disappointed reader is certainly right about one thing: there are other blogs to go to that will give them want they are asking for. But what if they eventually decide that the easy and popular approach is destructive in a subtle way?

Wouldn't it be more constructive to look at the philosophical significance of the Boondocking Blabbermouth Syndrome? Romanticism and escapism motivate most people to travel. There is nothing wrong that, as a beginning. But it should move on to something more solid.

For instance, RVing is besotted with hackneyed phrases, 'living the Dream', 'starting our new adventure', etc. And yet, virtually everything on the RV blogosphere is aimed at taking adventure away from it! How can anybody see this as the "positive" approach of a "nice", helpful blogger? Hell, it's the approach of a blogger serving Mammon, not their fellow RVers.

Adventure? Do they mean being spoon-fed the answer, as an overly indulgent teacher does with lazy and timid students? Does a parent who loves their child want to keep that child weak and dependent on the parent?

When a newbie or wannabee thinks they need to be told where to camp, it is probably because their rig is too big and awkward. In other words they want their cake and to eat it too. Is it really such a nice thing for a blogger to pander to phony readers of that type?

But there is another reason for the Blabbermouth Syndrome -- a sociological reason. RVers are bourgeois couples, for the most part. That is good and bad, of course. It affects everything they do when they travel. They don't really want adventure; they want comfort, security, and bourgeois respectability. That comes from consuming travel, rather than experiencing it. 

Therefore they want to remove risk, effort, or spontaneity from RV boondocking. They want a campsite to be domesticated into a bar-coded product that they can consume. Despite their hypocritical posturing as adventurers, they don't want any adventure in going out there and finding it.

A blogger should try to be a good mentor: helping others get started in approximately the right place; teaching them to fish instead of just giving them fish; and giving them encouragement to become stronger and more knowledgeable. And when they do, finding that campsite will be half the fun. 

In summary then, I hope this has been constructive because I have convinced some people to allow their RV adventure to actually be an adventure.

Friday, March 31, 2017

An Irrepressible Smile

If only I'd been quick enough on the draw -- with the camera, that is. The group of mountain bikers passing by on the trail would have made a nice photograph.

It has been years since I've seen a half dozen senior-ish mountain bikers riding as a group -- competently, but not competitively. It gave me a good feeling. Why are these encounters so rare?

Location. Terrain, weather, and access to practical things dominate my camping locations. Then I ride on the nearest dirt roads. In contrast, most mountain bikers buy into dedicated single track trails, usually at brand-name locations. So, no overlap.

It feels good to see people pursue a sport without a young male's obsession with competition and 'whose bike cost more.' Millions of people are deprived of the pleasure of mountain biking because of its image as an 'extreme sport' for athletic freaks. They think of reckless stunts for acrobatic geniuses. America has bifurcated into two non-overlapping camps of obese couch potatoes and obsessive athletes.

Actually, mountain biking blogs and forums do a great job in building up this negative image of the sport. 

As for RVers, I sometimes wonder why a sport as slow, hot, and plodding as hiking seems fairly popular with them, while there isn't one in a thousand who rides a bike. When all is said and done, most RVers have rigs that gave no thought to carrying anything other than a Walmart bike that they never ride. They need a pickup truck with a high cap or a van.

As we come down the trail with her frolicking off-leash, we encounter a walker from the other direction. An irrepressible smile breaks loose on their face: "That is one happy dog," they usually say. They appear gleeful. It gives real pleasure and satisfaction to know that we helped to incite it. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Quandary of Consumers

Of all the childish and naive notions a person could have, the one that is the hardest for me to outgrow is believing that the world is supposed to make sense, more or less; that people's way of life is supposed to be -- not perfect -- but at least semi-rational and explainable.

Take consumer behavior. Most of life is gobbled up by work -- one of life's most over-rated activities. Then the wage-slave runs around town or the internet and spends all of their money. And yet, they aren't any good at it. Why don't they want to be good at it?

A local business got a new owner a couple years ago. And I like the way they run the business. It is a trailer repair and parts place. I asked the owner why trailer springs have a reputation for breaking, whereas leaf spring suspensions on trucks seldom break.

This led to me pontificating about the reluctance of consumers to spend one more dollar where it might actually do some good. But the owner 'hijacked the thread' by turning the issue to one of morality.

But I stand by my point: a "good" consumer is normally considered one who does price comparisons. But what good does it do them to split hairs quantitatively if they don't understand the qualitative differences between one product and the next? And how do you do that if you don't understand any of the basic principles and categories of science and engineering?

I assume that it is still the case that a person leaves primary and secondary education with little knowledge of, and no interest in, science. I am not referring to the algebraic scrabble of science, but to a layman's knowledge of the "How Things Work" type. 

What an irony! The modern world is what it is, largely on the basis of science and technology, but a person leaves the diploma factory with more knowledge of Beowulf -- in the old days -- or Afro-American/feminist/lesbian poets in more recent times.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

How to Handle a Deplorable on the Trail

Oh yea, I can hear it, a ways off. It is a Saturday after all. There is a 50% chance that it will head away from me, rather than towards me. But no, it wouldn't do that. They never do. That hateful sound kept getting closer and closer.

At a bend in the dirt road, a smallish ATV suddenly appeared. "Thanks for stopping and not running me over," was my initial thought. The driver was so velocitized that it took some effort for him to stop that idiot-machine of his.

But he was a good kid, and apologized. And I did my best to smile at the little motor-crazed monster.

As my dog and I kept plugging away on that road, the damned kid seemed to be playing "tag" with us. I had an obligation to both of us not to let this bother me. But the harder I tried to ignore it, the more resentful I became. It was a classic example of the medieval tale of a fairy telling the guy she will grant him his fondest wish if only he wouldn't think of a pink elephant for the next ten minutes.

On the way back I studied his camp, his father, and the truck, to see if there were any of the typical signs of miscegenation of the kind one sees at Walmart or the Dollar Stores. But the father looked pretty decent, even if he was being indulgent with his son. 

On the last leg of the ride back to my van, the little Deplorable kept playing tag or leapfrog with me. By now I was really getting angry. I fantasized about getting off the bike, and stoning the dumb kid.

When my dog and I rolled into the trailhead/parking lot, the monster drove up one last time. I really wondered whether I was finally going to tell him off, or maybe, control myself and give him some kindly grandfatherly advice.

He shut off his motor and removed his space-alien helmet. With a big smile, he told me how much he liked my dog. It reminded him of his dog at home.  We talked about his machine and the road and a few other things. I don't have children. I haven't even talked to children for years. How do you do this? What would a lad his age want to talk about? I didn't want to sound condescending.

He was actually a fine lad, polite, well-spoken, and intelligent. It seemed kind of cute that he had cowboy boots on to drive his ATV. I was astonished that he could transform so suddenly from a little monster to a cute friendly kid.

One of the nostrums of modern, squishy social science is that Anger is a "negative" emotion. Experiences like this illustrate that the popping of a malevolent bubble is charming beatific. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Pilgrims of Gringo Road

They plod past my driveway, the last one before heading out to the remaining 750 miles of the Arizona Trail. One part of me wants to open up to the spirit of adventure emanating from them. But it is difficult.

It would be easy to fantasize about camel trekking in Morocco, or riding long sections of the Silk Road, or sea kayaking between Asia and North America, across the Bering Strait.

But walking, plodding, and trodding in Arizona heat? They are visualizing something that I can't, although I would like to. All I can see is a slow-moving sport that lacks all pizzazz or sex appeal. Their sport is the perfect activity for a puritan's Sunday.

Perhaps I am being unfair, for demographic and cultural reasons. Hikers tend to be Greens, urbanites, Democrats, veggies, etc. 

A few of them had real panache. For example I have seen a couple hike with silver umbrellas fastened to their backpacks. Correction: parasols. And of course that appeals to the romantic imagination of a retro-grouch.



One day I even saw a man and woman trying to coax their German short-haired pointer across a cattle gate on the Trail. Oh sure, I rolled my eyes, thinking, "Damned city slickers. Their dawg ain't even seen a cattle gate before!"

But at least they had a dog, rather than a cat on a leash, which is about what you would expect from a city slicker. Later in the day I ran into the same couple in the town post office. They had wrapped duct tape over the dog's pads to try to protect them. I told them about real hiking shoes for dogs, made by Neo-Paws. She was interested, but it was too late to do her any good.

On another day I saw a hiker running from side to side on the road (the Trail, for a short distance). She was picking up empty plastic bottles. Didn't she know she could buy a plastic bottle at the upcoming grocery store?

But there was something else: she seemed so ostentatious about it. Was she a Green picking up litter, and enjoying it a bit too much -- perhaps because somebody would see her? The more you think about this whole activity, the more it seems analogous to religious pilgrimages of yore. Weren't they supposed to Suffer, even if they had to indulge in self-flagellation to do it?

But what Sins are these modern urbanite metro-sexual secularists trying to expiate? How does it work, that is, how many units of sin are erased by how many units of heat and drudgery?  

For those who haven't seen it, I recommend Bergman's "The Seventh Seal." The march of the flagellants might make quite an impression on you.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Annual Battle of Classicists Versus Romantics

During my annual visit to Mayberry-for-Hippies, AZ, I fall back into the polemics of a classical approach to life, rather than the romantic approach. Oddly enough, it is the scenery that crystallizes the issue for me.


This is ranch country, as well as mountains and forests. Therefore it is useful for grazing cattle. That leads to food, a practical and unromantic thing. The land isn't just here to gush over as scenery, although in fact, I love it as scenery.

 
It has never interested me much to try to 'solve' the conundrum of classical versus romantic. A reductionist approach to life seems unappealing.  To hell with looking for magic recipes that explain everything. 

All that interests me is to watch this dualism operate on different things, and to see how the balance changes over the years. Indeed, I do become more classical every year, but that doesn't mean that the classical approach to life is some sort of philosophical monad. 

A scissors with two countervailing and reciprocating blades cuts paper better than a knife.

In the mean time, chalk one up for the importance of visual representations of abstractions that would otherwise seem like uninteresting homework.  In fact a local artist has painted some spots around here where I may have paused the mountain bike, just to admire. 


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Opening Up to the Charm of Other People

Learning to appreciate a variety of things is important for what I call an independent lifestyle, that is, one in which sheer busyness, phony pragmatism, and chasing after toys and status symbols is not the 'meaning of life.'

I had a couple examples of appreciation that were new to me, recently. My dog and I were returning on a mountain bike ride. Therefore we were cruising downhill. Another dirt road 'teed' into ours. Coming down this road were a half dozen large beautiful horses, with riders. I guessed that the horsewoman who led the troupe was the employee of a nearby (dude) guest ranch. 

I asked and she confirmed it, in four or five words.  That's all it took for me to bike away, cooing, and fluttering my eyelashes at the sheer prettiness of her voice. This effect was so exaggerated that I had to wonder about it.

Was it just the usual joy juice in my blood that comes from mountain biking? This has happened so many times. Sometimes it almost scares me. Certainly, that is some of the explanation.

And yes, some women really do have lovely voices. Their voices can be amazingly clear on the telephone when the man's voice sounds like mere mumbling. I thought I was only knocked over by the hit-arias sung by the soprano in Puccini operas.

But maybe I was just being a dirty old man, and was imagining that woman in tight blue jeans, riding her horse away from me? Or maybe it was seeing people enjoy a traditional western experience?
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It is rare to find a town in America that has any individual character. For the most part, they are all the same. It fits in with the massen-mensch mindset of democracy. And the consumption of mass media. And besides, there is barely enough freedom in modern America to display individuality.

Despite all that, Mayberry-for-Hippies, AZ, allows dogs in their public library. One day a reader came through with their miniature schnauzer in tow. He was grey and older, and so sedate. His whole personality reminded me of a little old man who runs an antique book store in London: you know the image, a cardigan sweater, nerdy eyeglasses, and maybe a little mustache.

I simply cannot forget that little dog. It's like he was born to work in that library. Of all the times I have been charmed by dogs, that experience is still my favorite.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Retro-grouch Gets His First Smartphone

Just in case I haven't said it often enough: late adopters rule, and early adopters drool. That is how I am feeling after finally finding a telephone/internet plan that I liked. Walmart was offering a pre-paid Verizon plan that can serve as my internet and phone plan, after I bought an inexpensive Android smartphone to serve as a hotspot for the laptop computer.

My goodness, I have held off for years! Because some people think a retrogrouch is either afraid of new things or is just a chronic curmudgeon who aims his curmudgeon-ness at technology, allow me to say a word in their defense. The problem was always the high price of the plans, not the smartphone itself. 

Actually it was fun and easy to learn how to use the Android smartphone. (Must I add that I wasn't even tempted to debauch myself with an overpriced iPhone?)  

Better yet, there was a certain vindication in being a cranky preacher against excessive motor vehicle usage. Look at how everything on the smartphone is aimed at tracking your location, and tailoring advertisements and maps towards getting you into the next fast food joint or Starbucks. It confirms what I have always said: that the car keys are the enabling technology for setting off a chain of unnecessary spending.

Because the 'medium is the message,' smartphones exacerbate bad habits, besides driving around in a city and squandering money. They bend your communications into one-liners and quips. They encourage you into an addiction to trivial, bite-sized 'news' and distraction: "Dude, how R U? Howzit hangin?" Eventually it will be deemed too slow or inconvenient to say, "Howzit hangin?" so it will be replaced with an emoticon-hieroglyphic. We can only imagine what that will look like.

Actually you can do just about everything better on an "old-fashioned" laptop. 

The smartphone is so synergistic with driving a car that one wonders how long it will be before old-fashioned key fobs are no longer needed to unlock and drive off in your car, and instead, there is an app on your smartphone to do it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Fire and Ice

Now and then, I catch myself bragging about setting a 'personal best' when camping. Last week the temperature inside the camper hit 27 F. 

Of course I have a heater, but refuse to use it. Usually I try to joke my way out of it. A better explanation would be to point at the movie, "The Red Violin." 

Chilly dry air, in contrast with sunlight at sunrise, seems like perfection to me. With a Platonic and pseudo-religious attitude, I pop my trailer door open to the east, and let the glorious sun come into the trailer. It feels warmer instantly, and irresistibly cheerful. If there is a better way to start a day, let me know what it is.


Nevertheless, consider this an exception to the rule. You will not have to read many advertisements for 'the ideal' or 'perfection' on this blog. Experience has taught me that the enemy of the Good is not the Bad, as you would expect. The enemy of the Good is the Ideal.