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When the World Surprises You

I was having breakfast at McDonald's. It was only 20 minutes after sunrise, but already, the sun was so bright that it was hard to read the smartphone. I had been doing a halfway decent job of ignoring the horrible sun.

Suddenly there was the quiet -- but affirmative -- hum of an electrical motor. I was shocked to see solar screens roll down the large expanse of tinted windows that ring the McDonald's.

Down the solar screens came, while my jaw was dropped halfway to the floor. When the motors had accomplished their job, they shut down.

It was like heaven behind those screens. If there is anything in the Southwest that epitomizes kindliness and mercy, it is a solar screen. Suddenly I was a disciple of Dr. Pangloss (aka, Leibniz) and believed we lived in the best of all possible worlds, and that a universal and benevolent Providence bestowed Divine Grace on each creature in the universe.

Perhaps the reader has seen things like this many times. But it was the first time for me. It…
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Which Veterans Deserve the Most Honor?

This year, let's skip my typical oration for Veteran's Day, and instead, ask which (contemporary) veterans deserve to be honored the most.

There are so many to choose from. Syrian and Yemeni veterans certainly belong at the top of the list. But I suppose Afghan veterans are the greatest heroes of all. They defeated the Soviet Empire, and have fought the American Empire to a standstill for 18 years. If anybody deserves to be honored, it is a fighter who takes on a foreign invader who has more expensive weapons and all the other advantages.

How does an English-reader really appreciate what the heroes of Afghanistan have gone through? I am aware of a book by Eric Margolis about the interminable wars in that part of the world. But it would probably be nice to find something more contemporary.

I suppose it is possible to come up with something, after a lot of digging on the internet, and maybe some unsuccessful purchases of eBooks. 

If any reader has a suggestion, let me know.

Why No Emoji for "Bullshit?"

Some people do get enjoyment from visiting Native American petroglyphs, but I am not one of them. You could say the fault is mine. But it would help if the whole subject was stripped of its sanctimoniousness, Noble Savage romanticism, and the pop-cultural baggage of the 1960s. Then I could look on it the way you look on other ancient writing systems.

Wikipedia had a good article on the history of writing systems. By the way, don't be scared off of the topic because you confuse it with linguistics. Linguistics articles are horrendously technical and impossible to understand.

It is easy to believe it was a huge step upward for civilization when written symbols went from picturing tangible things or numbers to conveying ideas or the sounds of a spoken language (which can then convey ideas.)

So the topic is inherently interesting, given a chance. But rather than look backward, perhaps we should consider the significance of a new contemporary writing system, the emoji.

My new phone has An…

Children of a Lesser God

I come through southern Nevada every autumn, it seems, and pay homage to a couple eccentricities of the land. There is a pseudo-cliff dwelling that I drove to, at the beginning of my RVing career. It is still here. The dry wash is loose gravel, so it is surprising that I made it with the van and trailer, way back then. But today I used the mountain bike.

Back then, my "discovery" was unplanned, so I fluttered my eyelashes over it, and honored it by building a fire, and watching the shadows of my hand walk around the ceiling of the "cliff dwelling."

By then, I had decided that cliff dwellings of the Native Americans bored me to death, when they were made into a tourist trap. That was part of the reason why is was so surprising to enjoy "my" cliff dwelling.

How lucky I was to experience something like this hole in the cliff! I was in the last generation to be able to do so. Today a newbie RVer would expect to be told exactly where it is and everything about i…

The Wolf-Light Comes

There must be people who learn new habits (and unlearn old habits) easily, but I'm not one of them. Since nights are longer now, it would be helpful to get in the habit of wearing a headlamp when leaving the camper at night.

In darkness, it isn't even possible to lock the door when leaving the camper. At dawn recently, I was doing the same stupid thing again: fumbling with the keys to feel for the shape of the door key. I simply couldn't feel it. I was furious. 

Perhaps it was the anger that made me do it, but I held the keys up towards the dawn sky, and much to my surprise, the silhouettes were clear. Why hadn't I thought of this trick, before?

Strange. It was almost "pre-dawn." A poet would probably call it the time of day when dawn was still just a hope or promise. And yet there was enough light to see the shape of the keys.

What a great way to start the day, eh?: with an "authentic natural experience." I use the term generously  -- perhaps too gener…