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Showing posts from April, 2011

The Latest Iteration of Folly

Seldom have I benefited more from a boob-toob-less lifestyle than recently, when I was spared the non-stop hype over the royal wedding. Why didn't they put it off a couple months so they could've hit the 30th anniversary of Princess Diana's wedding? (I guess there was a groom, but nobody remembers his name.)

People who worship the false idol of Progress should ask themselves some brutal questions. For forty years women have been liberated, supposedly, and they've all wanted to become hard-boiled district attorneys Monday through Friday; but they still want to be fairy princesses on the weekend, or at least on one "magical" day of their lives. My gawd, did you see that ridiculous "train" or whatever you call it that Princess Kate dragged behind her with the help of an aide. (Lady-in-waiting?)

Perhaps my whole problem is that I'm old enough to remember the world and the media making fools of themselves over Princess Diana. And yet the younger gene…

Is Beauty Ever General?

Dog owners know that one of their urchin's favorite tricks is falling behind on a walk, supposedly due to some worthy distraction. Then they suddenly look up and realize they're too far away. This brings on a mad dash back to their owner; their paws sound as loud as the hooves of a galloping horse. Coffee Girl, my Australian kelpie, pulled that trick this morning.

But something was a little different this time. There was no wind to disperse her dusty contrail. It stayed intact a few feet off the ground and drifted away, ever so slowly. It seemed too solid for anything airborne, perhaps because the rising sun was illuminating the contrail, but not the field proper. It was cruise missile-like; in an earlier era we would have said that it belonged in a Loonie Toons cartoon. The contrail of dust, el camino del polvo, seemed like it was a part of her streaking body. Sigh, if only it had been possible to film a video of this, backlit by the morning sun.

At first I wondered if it wa…

Day 2

I mountain biked up to a viewpoint on the Continental Divide and looked down at our annual bicycle race, once again using my 10 X zoom. When it comes time to buy a new camera, optical zoom will once again be the priority.

These are the Men's Pro guys going by. Looks like a few are violating the rules of the road.

They're Back

The annual bicycle race is back in town and today is the first day.
Top) Men's Pro category starts off by heading through downtown.
Bottom) I mountain biked to our public park built over old mining land, and photographed the boys leaving town, headed northwest for 94 miles. I needed the 10X zoom.

The Belief System of Cheap Oil

Finally I found a big-picture article on the subject of oil and other resources. I am not terribly familiar with Jeremy Grantham but I do like this article, particularly the second graph, "Exhibit 2", on page 5.

The article is flawed. It is contaminated with standard environmental gloom and doom theology: mankind has been Sinful for living it up, therefore Gaia must punish mankind. I am heartily sick of supposedly intelligent "free-thinkers" taking pride in outgrowing outdated religious traditions intellectually, but then clinging to the most puerile, Sunday-school-kindergarten notions, emotionally. They do everything but suck on their thumbs.

Today let's consider some of the ideas in Grantham's article that seem profoundly true. One of them is that mankind needs to focus on growing qualitatively, rather than quantitatively. That's a big topic for another day.

In opposition to Grantham's environmental gloom-and-doomism, you could choose the so-call…

Gasoline and Strange Bedfellows, part 2

Some in the financial commentariat say that Bernanke must stop printing money and weakening the dollar by 2012, or food and gasoline inflation will put Obama out of work.

It does cause me to roll my eyes when I hear (fellow) Obama-bashers use opportunistic arguments like 'Americans need gasoline to get to work.' Well sure, but I wonder what fraction of our passenger-miles in motor vehicles is really about getting to work. I do a lot of bicycling after the morning "rush hour"; how many of those people who pass me are going to work, versus going on an unnecessary shopping trip, or just looking for an excuse to get out of the house? I could be attributing my own slouchy driving habits to other people.

For the sake of argument, let's assume that half of driving is just entertainment, thinly disguised as transportation and phony necessity. Isn't there cheaper entertainment available in this modern age?

If you walked up to the average gasoline pump, where a driver…

Allegro non Troppo on a City Street

Today I was bicycling up a street where I usually get lucky at seeing dog walkers. A woman, with some kind of physical problem, was riding her electrical cart up the street. On her curb side, at a distance of three feet, ran her canine companion. His gait was happy, but steady.

At first I went into mooning-and-swooning mode over a happy dog. But this was just habit. It wasn't accurate for this particular dog. He was happy certainly, but not ebullient, as I've come to expect. He was too earnest and professional. Did his owner think she was doing her little friend a favor by letting him run with her, or was he concentrating on doing her the favor? Maybe she realized that her physical problem could be turned to advantage with the electrical cart; most dogs just get tied up in the backyard. I don't think I really appreciated his special type of aura before today: one beyond mere fun, one of responsibility and purposeful effort.

Later on the ride I ascended the draw separati…

Perspectives, Walking, and Tall Buildings

In moving to a retirement town someone who has read a lot over his lifetime might be influenced by good bookstores or university libraries. But that restricts retirees to a small number of cities. How fortunate we are that the internet and eBook gadgets liberate us from such geographical strictures. 

My own town of choice, the Little Pueblo of the southern New Mexico highlands, has a small public university. The library's book collection is disappointing; I've learned to turn that to advantage. When walking through the stacks and not finding anything to read, it's easy to feel frustration develop into surliness; then I walk to the lower numbers in the book numbering scheme. 

These are the books of general philosophy and historical overview. They are in the last, northernmost row. I pick out one of these books of the Big Picture, and carry it over to large, tinted windows facing north to the ponderosa covered mountains. The stacks are on the second story of a small campus si…

The Future Boonie-mobile?

What I miss about my former lifestyle is taking a mountain bike, dog, and camera out onto a new trail everyday. And sleeping away from city noise. And walking up arroyos with a dog in the winter.  I was never much interested in what I saw through the windshield.

There's still a couple years until I can start withdrawing my IRA penalty-free, but it's fun to fantasize about the next boonie-mobile. I no longer want to tow, and be 40 feet long in total. Short trips around the Southwest are all I want; no more full-timing. I want something that gets 20 mpg or more. Inside there needs to be a 3" Thermarest air mattress, water jugs, a solar shower bag, a cookstove, and porta-potty.

I would not try to make a pickup cap look like a finished RV, with all the useless overhead of middle-class respectability or feminine decorativeness. It isn't supposed to be a cute witto house; it's supposed to be a sleepable vehicle.

As much as I dislike pickups, I don't think that a F…

In Front of a Dictator's Tank

At one point during the recent turmoil in Egypt I saw a video of unarmed Muslim protestors kneeling on the street to pray right in front of a water cannon, which merrily blasted away at them. That had quite an effect on me. I wonder how many proud secularists in the West felt uncomfortable watching that video, and if so, did they know why? Was it because of the obvious cruelty or was it something else?

There is a connection between this contemporary image and a point made by George Orwell in his review, written in the early days of World War II, of the unabridged edition of Hitler's Mein Kampf.
[Hitler] has grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life. Nearly all Western thought since the last war, certainly all "progressive" thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security, and avoidance of pain. In such a view of life there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues. The Socialist who finds his childre…

Gasoline and Strange Bedfellows

Recently Obama got a question from an audience about the high price of gasoline. Obama, half-jokingly, suggested that if the questioner was driving a vehicle that got 8 miles per gallon, he should trade it in for something better.

This outraged the blogosphere, since it was interpreted as a "let them eat cake" wise-crack. But I thought his response was sensible and candid.

At this point the reader's eyes are starting to narrow because he suspects that a foot-and-pedal partisan such as me is rolling in schadenfreude over gasoline approaching $4 per gallon. Very well then, I admit that it is 70% of the reason why I agree with Obama's statement, above.

But let's discuss the remaining 30%. I'm old enough to remember when the average American drove an automobile, rather than a monster pickup truck or truck-based SUV. Is the nostalgia of old age playing tricks with my mind? I remember passenger cars doing pretty well; many drivers loved their cars. Only farmers dro…

Big Chill in the Middle East

Another Protest Friday has come and gone in the Middle East, with Syria becoming a big headline grabber. I have appreciated the commentariat comparing current goings-on with the aborted revolutions in Europe in 1848. This is a subject that doesn't get enough attention in the history books. My first year RVing in the Southwest I was surprised to learn of the unsuccessful German revolutionaries of 1848 who moved to the Texas Hill Country, and left their names on many of the towns.

But rather than choose 1848, why not choose the more recent 1968? Those of us who were a bit too young to be a part of the "Big Chill" generation have probably always held a grudge against those who were; and we learned to mock those whose brains froze in that year. But let's play nice and say that there were some serious reasons for 1968 being a year of riots, such as the Vietnam War, racial problems, etc.

I still can't help believing that 1968 was put on the map primarily because of a h…

Hanging Up on a Cellphone Bully

It's so rare to have a success in the gadget world that I want to brag up LG, the cellphone manufacturer, and Verizon, the service provider. I managed to lose my old LG cellphone, after a run of six years. It had even survived one trip through a washing machine. I'll probably find it under a heap of something someday. But I couldn't call the lost cellphone with somebody else's phone, because the prepaid minutes had expired.

It was a pleasant surprise to learn that I could keep the old service plan (which no longer exists for new people) and the old phone number. And all of this was explained by a nice young man who spoke English as his first language.

I had another cellphone success, of a different type. Unaccustomed as I am to finishing a nice mountain bike ride with a coffee and cookie at a local coffee shop, I did so today. It was so pleasant just sitting there, thinking about the perfect ride and weather.

Just then a woman had the effrontery to intrude on this sanc…

Servile to a Cervine

A camper friend and I were walking our dogs in the "south 40" when we spotted a herd of six deer trying to jump a chain link fence, 5-6 feet high. They didn't use a perpendicular approach as I might have guessed, but approached it at a glancing angle. I was surprised at how interesting it was to watch them try and fail, several times. Their bodies ricocheted off the fence ungracefully, yet they still managed to land gracefully. 'The deer as problem-solver' certainly doesn't fit the sentimental postcard of Bambi munching on a pretty flower, next to a cute witto stream. Perhaps it's an under-rated pleasure to watch animals solving problems, rather than standing around like dumbshits, trying to look pretty.

But not everybody sees it like that. Bicycling up near the Continental Divide the other day, I saw a couple deer crossing the road. Yawn. A top-end SUV slowed down and then stopped, right out in the lane of traffic. At first I thought that the SUV had hit…

The Partially Seen Villain

It was time for an uneventful hike in an Arizona sky island, a couple winters ago. We went up a canyon or draw, up to a saddle that I recognized from an earlier hike. Although I favored backtracking, since that is the safest thing to do, the little poodle made the decision for me. He headed up to the saddle, which would suck us into making a loop. It was good to see him exonerate himself from his unmanly behavior on a recent hike.
I stopped in my tracks when I saw a dead teddy bear cholla. Since my photograph didn't do it justice, I deleted it. It was as startling as seeing Norman Bates' mother at the end of "Psycho". The dead cholla was more anima-morphic in three dimensions than in the photograph. You could see its two eyes and maw. It was standing up with curved forearms. Its face seemed frozen in a death-agony. 

Since villains are seldom that scary when you actually see them, Hollywood has learned to give the viewer indirect views of the villain, at …

Sidney Lumet

In honor of famed director Sidney Lumet, who died yesterday, I watched Twelve Angry Men. (Background information is available at imdb.com .) How long do you think it will be before movies like that are made again? It must be the most interesting lowest budget movie I've ever seen. "Low budget" is putting it mildly. How much did it cost to put twelve guys in the jury room and let them talk to each other? Intelligent dialogue between adults -- how boring and out-of-date can you get!

If you want to give your imagination some exercise, try to put yourself in the shoes of a 16-year-old who encounters Twelve Angry Men today, by mistake no doubt. The poor lad must be bored out of his mind by a movie with no action, no bedroom scenes, no special effects, and no graphic and gratuitous violence. If he were capable of making it through the movie, he must think that people "back then" were ridiculously easy to amuse since, like, you know, they had a lower standard of livin…

Spring Cleaning on the Internet

Naturally I want to be Fair and Balanced on this blog. Sometimes I might be too anti-government. The current administration claims to know something about pollution, even going so far as to declare carbon dioxide -- a gas without which life could not exist -- as pollution; perhaps these folks would be doing us more of a favor to remove some of the pollution off of the internet.

The obvious place to begin is with the least controversial purging: surely most people would agree that travel blogs are internet pollution. Then they can quickly move on to bigger fish, such as product reviews.

Yesterday I was reading reviews of RV parks, including the one that I'm currently in. Most people were charmed by the rustic nature of the park, but were disappointed by gravel, grass, "weeds", wind, sunlight, and juniper trees.

The reviewers were disappointed that there was no cable TV here, and that there were few broadcast channels in our town. Such deficiencies detracted from their RV…

A Smart Motorhomer

After I learned that a (now ex-) reader didn't care for my comments on motorhomes, I saw a chance to partially redeem myself. Of all the motorhomers that I've seen go through here, this is the first time that I've seen this arrangement. What a great way to get around town and really experience it, instead of being in a glass and steel cocoon. A moped might be limited to good weather, but RVers usually arrange it so that they are having good weather.

I think these little cuties would really help an old boy feel young again.

Orwell's Extinct Type of Intellectual

In writing about all the turmoil in the Middle East, some pundits like to refer to the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. This revived my interest in George Orwell, who volunteered for the (government) Loyalist side. In fact I checked out a 1300+ page collection of essays and magazine articles that he wrote during his short lifetime.

It struck me how important it used to be that public intellectuals (like Orwell and Arthur Koestler) were not tenured professors or think-tank intellectuals. They put their beliefs into practice. You might disagree with their politics as I certainly do, and as they eventually did, later in life. But there was real integrity in an intellectual pushing back from his desk, and suffering the mud and stink of real war. Both were in physical danger. It's something that would never happen today.

Imagine the suburban comfort of the interventionist today: their McMansions in northern Virginia or in fashionable areas of Maryland. They might have tenure at a univer…

The Consumer

Considering the title and description line of this blog, it doesn't surprise anyone that the blog is implicitly hostile to the borrow-and-spend consumer culture of America. So it never seemed necessary to preach too much about it; people have heard the sermons before. And I never really aspired to go to heaven and sitteth upon the right hand side of Gandhi or Thoreau.

But recently an excellent post has appeared on OfTwoMinds blog. There weren't any new ideas in the post, but it is an excellent summary of the idiocy of the American lifestyle.

I got a kick out of the commenter who wondered, angrily, why consumers were good enough to buy the semi-useless crap sold by American corporations, but not good enough to be hired by them.

A Dumb Consumer

There goes my self-image as a smart consumer. Never again will I ridicule the dummiessilly geese hip/cool/sexy/smart people who buy Apple products, $43,000 pickup trucks, motorhomes, seldom-used boats, etc. I just got back from a 35 minute (one-way) walk from downtown in a pair of Keen "shoes". It felt like I walked home in my stocking feet. When they wear out I'll replace them with $25 sneakers from Walmart.

How did those outdoor-equipment stores ever convince me to spend $100 for these lousy Keens? They're just over-priced house slippers.

Progress in Politics

The Iraq War started with a lie about weapons of mass destruction. At the time it seemed hard to believe that the Bush administration would lie about something that they would so easily get caught at, so I tended to believe them while suspecting that they were exaggerating.

That is where I was a naif and the neocons were brilliant. WMDs were revealed as a lie gradually. At no time was the lie Breaking News; thus it wasn't news at all, and there were no consequences for the liars.

In contrast, the Obama administration is not providing false evidence of a genocide in Libya; it provided no evidence at all. The only thing it provided was a "what if", that is, Fear.

And thus we have come to see the Change we can Believe in: starting wars on the basis of no evidence at all, rather than false evidence.

Gabby's Ridge

During my siesta the other day I was listening to the opening of Verdi's La Traviata, a dance scene. Sometimes a music lover needs to be reminded of the connection between music and motion. It was a good time to let the mind drift off to possible connections between famous musical themes and motion. In fact, some of Verdi's dance scene music reminded me of Coffee Girl leaping and bounding through the field.


Dogs aren't the only critter that is beautiful when in motion. When we made it up to Gabby's Ridge -- named after an Australian shepherd who led her owner there every day:


(Gabby is on the left, above. Despite being disciplined and repressed more than any dog I've ever known, she can't hide her joy. That's dogs for you.)


I looked down into the little valley and saw a horse prancing around its corral. It was stepping so high. So was its tail. It would have been grand if I had been down in the valley, looking up at the sprightly horse as it ran along Gabby…

Spring in New Mexico

I'll give you one guess as to which direction I was cycling when I took this photo.

Getting off the Road

"Getting off the road" or "turning in the keys" have an ominous and depressing sound to a full time RVer, since it usually means that health problems and aging have finally gotten the upper hand. But let's say that it's not these typical issues. What else would make him get off the road?

Imagine rolling into town and going out to run some errand. Perhaps your propane tank needs to be refilled. You have a couple minutes to kill while the attendant does his work, so you ask where the best grocery store is. The directions are totally useless of course, which you knew would happen if you had thought of it in time. Next you look up at the sky and start to make small talk about the weather, which should be more his speed. Well yea, he says while straightening up and lifting his baseball cap to let his sunburned head cool off, but you know what they say about Mudburg's weather: iff'n you doan lok it, ya jes wait 10 minutes! After delivering th…