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.