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Showing posts from December, 2013

II: Barbarism at the Starbucks

Yuma. On the group's bicycle rides we frequently stop in at a Starbucks for a rest. I look forward to it.

I don't mean the coffee. How do you explain why these places are so popular? Is it just "affinity marketing?" They offer a pseudo-sophisticated and PC image to people who need it, and who feel good about being surrounded by strangers who presumably think the same way. Hence the shade-grown, bird-friendly, fair-trade coffee; the New York Times available inside (does anybody still read that?); and the smooth jazz (elevator jazz actually) drowning out the conversation.

Except that there isn't much conversation. Everybody is trying to look sophisticated and important by burying their nose in the Latest-and-Greatest electronic gadget. Look over by the couch -- a man is trying to look alpha-professional while staring at his little screen -- the latest sports scores, probably. He is thinking, "I wonder if that hot babe (a minivan-driving matron, actually) at the …

Barbarism at Starbucks, part I

Perhaps the reader is relieved that there aren't Google ads in this blog. Actually, as a reader, I really don't mind stationary ads in parallel with the reading material. But product-placement ads infuriate me. So this blog doesn't offer those, either. Perhaps the reader thought that this was too good to be true.

Well, it was. Today marks the beginning of a new policy on this blog. Not ads. But there will be homework assigned. Mandatory reading. I expect to double my hit-count because of this new policy. The only thing still to be decided is how to quiz the readers at the end of the post so I can see if they've been cheating.

Very well then, today's assignment is a short essay by Jonathan Swift on conversation.

Off-line Victory over Waste on the Hard Drive

Very well then, we are all agreed that in pursuing a winter lifestyle that enlarges our overall lifestyle we must move towards complementarities rather than outright reversals. For instance, the internet is a pretty big part of most people's lifestyle these days. But surely most people suspect that much of their online time is wasted on predictable repetition of absolute trivia. It's tempting to fantasize smashing the computer with a hammer and chucking the whole thing into a dumpster, and then dropping the expensive monthly charge of the cellphone carrier.

But wait. Where is the perpendicular move? It must make a youngster's eyes roll when an old timer tells them that that they used computers for several decades without being online. (Although they were hooked to a mainframe computer, usually.) In fact it even makes me wonder sometimes what I ever found to do with an offline computer at home.

But remember my sighs over the great charnel houses in the cloud, or for that matt…

Winter Should Be 90 Degrees Out of Phase

I misspoke in my advertisements for doing something, in the winter, that is the "opposite" of the usual activities during the rest of the year. That became clear when I renewed my library card in Yuma. (And what a luxury it is for a traveler to have a library card!)

For instance, I read non-fiction most of the time. What am I to do? Start reading fiction? Old novels are full of nothing but love-intrigues. New novels are full of the same rot, but with bedroom scenes added. What a waste of time fiction is!

We all have reasons for our preferences. To reverse them suddenly is nihilistic. Who wants to become a different person? It makes more sense to use winter as an opportunity to become a larger person, not a different person.  This can best be achieved by adding complementarities, rather than negations.

Think of a vector, a line segment with an arrow on the end, representing velocity, position, force, etc. I see no reason to build a winter lifestyle that is graphic…

Forgot a Classic Quote about Evil Reinventing Itself

Normally it is pretty easy to insert a quote from a classic book when I write a post. But last time, I dropped the ball. It finished as:
Of course Gandhi-on-Wheels gets his compensation by visualizing Mobility as a consumer good and status symbol, and then by falling in love with the insatiability of mobility.  So it really is just a re-incarnation of the very thing he thinks he is rebelling against.I forgot to pull in a quote from Edmund Burke, in his classic "Reflections on the Revolution in France":
Seldom have two ages had the same pretexts and the same modes of mischief. Wickedness is a little more inventive...The very same vice assumes a new body. The spirit transmigrates; and, far from losing its principle of life from its change of appearance, it is renovated in its new organs with the fresh vigor of a juvenile activity.By the way, somebody recently asked me, What is a classic book or movie? My answer was similar to what a Supreme Court justice said about pornograph…

Some Wise Men Versus the False Prophets of the RV Blogosphere

On one of the tabs at the top of the screen I take issue with the False Prophets of the RV blogosphere. (Must I take the time to point out that many bloggers, including myself, have flirted with asceticism; and it is the Idea, not somebody in particular, that I'm planning on having some tongue-in-cheek fun with.)

The world is divided into three camps on the issue of  'How much crap does a person need to own?' But most people close their minds to the topic. When they hear any criticism of Insatiable Consumption, as promoted in TV commercials, they probably take it as criticism aimed at them

But that makes no sense; they, as individuals, did not invent the consumer culture that we have. They, as individuals, were merely swept along in the rising trends, brought on by advertising and tax policies. So there's nothing personal in merely going along with the prevailing consumer culture.

But there could be something that dignifies the Individual when they rebel against this co…

How Can a Traveler Best "Lie Fallow" in Winter?

You've heard me advertise that a traveler should take a couple months off in the winter, and live differently that the rest of the year. Even if you don't agree, I ask you to pretend that you do, so that we can play ball and see where it goes.

We need a metaphor, lest we drown in petty details and verbosity. Consider the remarkable statement that the Wikipedia article on "Crop Rotation" starts off with:
Middle Eastern farmers practiced crop rotation in 6000 BC without understanding the chemistry, alternately planting legumes and cereals. Then the three crop rotation became the tradition, by adding a fallow field as one of the three "crops." Wikipedia was vague on how a fallow field was actually helpful.  Did it just sit there, doing nothing?

Fallow fields were replaced later by growing turnips and clover (a legume) in a four crop rotation. Thus the amount of food increased. (See the Wikipedia article on the "British Agricultural Revolution.") Today…

Are Blogs Part of the Solution or the Problem?

Call it a blessing or a curse as you wish, but it is certainly true that pontificating on the internet (even anonymously!) makes you feel obligated to practice what you preach. (How grim!)

For instance, I was extolling the general value of the Rockhound Principle recently. The perfect place to apply this principle is in the reading of books. Where else can you benefit more from infinite patience with "detritus?"  Instead of feeling disgusted, you can channel this into delight when you finally do find something precious. You can also work to ensure that the precious nuggets you find stay found, by actively assimilating them into your life.

Recall that I was reading "The Name of the Rose," by Umberto Eco. All in all, I don't recommend it. Still, there were a few precious nuggets on the way through the book. The leading character was a monk trying to solve some murders in a monastery in the early 1300s. One body was found in a vat filled with the blood of recently s…