Monday, October 30, 2017

A New Cultural Low on the Internet

Like many travelers I am happy that eBooks exist. Boxes of dead-tree books are heavy and space-consuming. And how many times per year can a traveler get to a decent bookstore?

Therefore I was in a good mood -- and a grateful mood -- when downloading an Amazon Kindle book today. But I noticed something new: in subtle, almost subliminal, markings, the eBook told you where other people had highlighted sentences in the book. For instance, it would say, "438 readers highlighted this."

Infuriating! Who the bleep cares what other people highlight? Am I not supposed to think for myself when reading a book? We don't need the equivalent of television's Nielsen ratings in a book! 

To think that reading a book is degenerating to the watching of television, or looking at "thumbs-up Likes" on social media! This would be a new low for modern culture.

I was so angry that it took me a long time to figure out how to eliminate "popular highlights" in a Kindle eBook. At the top of the screen for Kindle-for-PC, click on:

  • Tools. 
  • Options.
  • Annotations.
  • Then uncheck the box for "Popular Highlights."
Naturally the Kindle-for-PC downloads with the default set to display these obscene suggestions, since that is the networking business model of everything on the internet these days.

But in Amazon's defense, they at least allow you the option to wipe out popular highlights. And that's no small miracle. This was a close call: how do I know if I would have had the spine to boycott Amazon if the option didn't exist?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Blog Spin-off Happens

In the old days, successful television shows occasionally featured guest stars who took off on their own shows. With that pattern as our inspiration, I am advertising a link to a discussion thread I started on mtbr.com , a mountain biking forum.

Its intention is to foster a sort of traveling club of mountain biking RV/van campers. We are trying to be rig-agnostic, that is, we welcome people in any rig. Where they camp is their business. (My cycling compadre and I disperse camp.)

The theme of the autumn and winter Romp is Utah and Arizona. Obviously we will follow the weather, as we head to lower altitudes and latitudes, approximately down the Colorado River. 

We have not advertised on RV forums. Perhaps we should. I don't know where the right place is.  

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Ten Year Anniversary

Has it really been ten years? I checked. It has. It was ten years ago, and right here in the Book Cliffs/Grand Junction area, that I adopted my sweetheart.

Her first day with me on adobe badlands, ten years ago. What is that face saying? "I'm not so sure about this, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt."

She doesn't look much different today. You never quite know what a canine-American person is thinking, but she probably thinks she has had a pretty good life since then.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Returning to the Womb in Winter

Last post, I was having fun re-inventing the water bottle. But today I'd like to be completely non-facetious, because it really was profoundly satisfying to take that hot water bottle to bed with me. Isn't profound satisfaction worthy of a post?

The old saying about 'hunger is the best sauce,' is certainly true, and that no doubt gets a lot of the credit. 

But there is something else. Insulating a camper, wearing the right clothes, and toughening-up are all valuable activities. But they smell too much like 'living without.' That is, they are negative approaches. ('Negative' should not be thought of as a synonym for 'bad.')

There is something in human nature that is frustrated by emptiness, that is, 'living without.'  Using fewer gigabytes of data on your internet plan, eating less, spending less, being celibate, showering less, stifling yourself in conversations, sleeping less, etc. At some point you rebel against these constant, nagging constraints.

You simply must add a positive -- that is, additive -- approach to your life. Carrying that hot water bottle into bed was an example.

Of course, running a conventional heater would be another example of a positive approach. But it is so sterile and meaningless to just buy some bar-coded product. In contrast, it means something to an individual to invent, improvise, learn, and struggle.

The water bottle was warmer than snuggling with a little dog.


Archive: snuggling back in the old days.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Almost Needing a Heater

It is easy to poke fun at ascetics. I do a bit of it myself, particularly where the 'holy man in the van' syndrome displays itself, usually ostentatiously. Therefore it will seem ironic that this post appears to strut its asceticism before the readers.

Perhaps asceticism only seems ridiculous when it concerns itself with a topic that doesn't interest you, personally. Somebody who, say, gets up at 5 a.m. and runs five miles every day may laugh at people who are abstemious at the dinner table. There are many such examples.

In my case, small RVs don't particularly interest me. It seems like common sense to keep a rig small-to-medium in size, and that is that. But what does interest me is avoiding heaters in a camper. There are some obvious practical reasons behind this, but I would only be fooling myself if I started running on about microscopic 'practical' justifications.

The real reason is that the challenge of living without heaters inspires me. Blame my ethnicity, past habit of reading polar exploration books, a childhood or delivering newspapers in the frozen Midwest, or more recently, my dislike of summer camping, and growing appreciation of winter camping.

At first the weather gods were predicting that it would fall to the high teens this morning. Then they backed off to 20 F. Still, the chances were pretty good I'd break my personal record of 28 F inside the trailer by this morning. 

Ahh, but this time I have a secret weapon. Perhaps you have seen the classic movie, "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir," directed by Joseph Mankiewicz. There are two really good reasons to watch the movie: looking at Gene Tierney, and listening to the musical score of Bernard Herrmann. 

Courtesy of IMDB.com
At one point Gene Tierney's character, a young widow in England in the 1930's, prepares for bed by heating some kind of water container. Of course!, we 'moderns' have forgotten that a large reservoir of hot water kept people warm at night, before the age of central heating.

So I bought a Platypus brand water bottle, the flexible kind, with a capacity of 2 liters. I put the hottest water I could stand in it. The plastic and the seams did not melt. The heat lasted for three hours, and I slept like a baby. What a magnificent comforting feeling it gives you in bed!

So take that! Mr. Buddy Heater, Olympian, Propex, and Dickinson heaters. We live in harmony with nature in this camper.
 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Appreciating Cuteness

What statement from his wife does a married man dread the most? You could choose worse than this one: the couple is shopping. The poor fellow is bored out of his mind, but the path of least resistance is just to humor her. There is something noble and admirable about his stoic resignation. 

After awhile he finally hears what he knew was coming: "Honey, look at this. It is so cyoooooooot!" It is particularly cringe-worthy if spoken with a girlish squeal. Whereupon the wife comes running up to him, cooing and cuddling some utterly useless item that she has squandered unconscionable sums of money on. It might be the item's shape or texture, but it's probably the color.

The demographic of human males who suffer in this way is fairly broad. Their suffering may be more intense and predictable if they are middle-class, from a northern European Protestant heritage. And if they do something technical for a living.

This lengthy preamble was probably not really needed to establish my credentials with the reader as one of those no-nonsense guys who has no appreciation for cuteness. Until recently.

The other day a vehicle pulled into the campground with a small trailer behind it. I wanted to run it down, and even before they got parked, start mushing and gushing how cyoooooot! it was. It was small, and had only one axle. The paint job was fresh and custom. Some things had been done on the inside, too.

Although 'retro' style trailers have become quite the rage, this little baby was authentic: it was from 1967, had the rounded look, and some of the Z trim patterns they put on back then.

If only I could remember what color it was...