Skip to main content


Showing posts from January, 2015

Failure of Washington's Foreign Policy Imagination

Although I genuinely believe that Washington DC has become an Evil Empire, it is probably useless to write about its foreign policy in terms of morality and emotion. Nobody who disagrees with me wants to be told their government is eeevil, since that is like being told that they are evil; nor do they want to see me indulge in moral posturing on the side of the angels.

That is the advantage to seeing an issue in intellectual terms. It is possible for people in different moods to reach some sort of common ground. "Losing or winning" an argument in this way can be a partial thing, not an example of unconditional surrender. Nor is it as offensive as being told your side is eeevil.

Let's look at Washington's current policy in the Ukraine in this manner. Let's see it as a parallel with another historical event: the lead-up to the Great War of 1914.

Recall that in August of 2014 the Media took a break from its usual drivel to mention the centenary of the Great War. I was …

Television's Unrealized Potential

Perhaps it is easy to admire someone with a talent that you yourself have no pretensions to. Envy doesn't intrude. And if they live and work far, far away from your own milieu, then the capacity for romanticizing kicks in.

That must explain some of my admiration for a certain stage actor who stars in one of the episodes of Star Trek that I fall asleep to on many a night. He was John Colicos, a Canadian stage actor who also had a Hollywood career. He plays the first Klingon in Star Trek (the first season episode, "Errand of Mercy.")

It is almost a good thing that the story doesn't interest me that much. Nor does the outdoor scenery --  there were no Trona Rocks in this episode; it was shot almost entirely on stage. Nor is there an alien hottie to be romanced by Captain Kirk, as there usually was. No distractions. Nothing but that remarkably nuanced voice of Mr. Colicos. He could have read the telephone white pages and made it sound interesting.

Although his character did…

Making Hiking Sexier than Oatmeal

If done thoughtlessly or imitatively, the sport of hiking is about as exciting as a breakfast of store-brand instant oatmeal that is prepared with luke-warm, soft water. Of course oatmeal can be sexed-up with more texture, fruit, nuts, and yogurt. Learning how to do the same to hiking has been a long-term project for me.

One of the tricks of the trade is to take a more "naturalistic" approach. Recently I had an opportunity to do an unusually fine job of that with two boondocking friends, of bus crash fame. We walked toward some jagged Yuma mountains, right from the front door, at sunrise, with tribal "associate members," aka dogs. 

But we weren't on our way to a stereotypical peak-bagging hike on an official list of Top Ten hikes in the area.Rather, we were headed up a large arroyo, delineated by harsh brown mountains. When you look at the area on Google maps, you can't tell ridgelines from declivities. It's as if the land was a piece of crumpled aluminum…

An After-Ride "Drug" Trip?

(Yuma.) It is never hard to think of something that I feel like writing about, but there are topics that seem "inappropriate," if you can stomach the word. For instance, is it right and proper to write about how the world looks after a bicycle ride, or is that like somebody writing after getting drunk?

It is odd how little I have learned about exercise physiology and psychology. Despite hundreds of experiences of feeling calm euphoria after a ride, I have never seriously studied endorphines, dopamines, and receptors in the brain. Was I afraid that it would turn out to be mere pop science?

But there I was again, finishing another fast 50 mile ride with 70 year olds, when I rounded the last corner before getting home, and saw a Red Flyer wagon at the end of a driveway. It was decorated in bright colors and was laden with Girl Scout cookies. I was hungry, so I did a quick loop-around to the wagon, operated by a Little Darlin' and supervised by an attractive mother. The Little…

Part II, Ascetics as Athletes of the Will

It is rare for me to enjoy a biography. That is one reason why I am bothering to write about Ramachandra Guha's "Gandhi Before India." Last post I credited it with being a non-hagiography.

Over the course of the book I came to the same conclusion as the author at the close of his book (page 546/672):
But let us not win the argument ... through hindsight, but rather try and see Gandhi's own experiments as he saw them, as steps to a purer, more meaningful life. To simplify his diet, to reduce his dependence on medicines and doctors, to embrace brahmacharya, were all for him ways of strengthening his will and his resolve. By conquering the need to be stimulated by sex and rich food -- the 'basal passions' according to his teacher Tolstoy -- Gandhi was preparing himself for a life lived for other people and for higher values.

If he ate little, and that merely fruits and vegetables, without salt, sugar and spices, if he didn't care how often (or if at all) he had…

Admiring Ascetics as Athletes of the Will

It is so easy to poke fun at ascetics -- or moral posturers of any type -- that I usually give in to the temptation. Their philosophy does not agree with the Prime Directive of this blog: living at the point of diminishing returns.

I have no interest in renouncing the Prime Directive since I am thoroughly convinced that it is sane, prudent, rational, and adult. If I were acting as if I were going to renounce it, the readers should be suspicious of an April Fool's joke. That sort of thing does not appeal to me.

Rather than renounce a good principle, it is better to think of 'exceptions that prove the rule.'  Any essay on asceticism fits in with the tradition of New Year's resolutions. It also coincides with the biography I have just finished, "Gandhi Before India," by Ramachandra Guha.

Before talking about asceticism I would like to praise biographies of a certain type. This biography was about a man, not a "Mahatma." Those of you who have seen the well…

Another Helpful Idea for Large Boondocking Rigs

From time to time, readers want me to try harder to write about "practical" issues faced by RV boondockers. Very well then, today I nobly set aside my usual arguments about the self-defeating nature of "practical" blogs and the stultifying prose of phony pragmatism.

In return I ask the reader to go along with the idea that clear thinking and clear expression are more practical than flailing away at -- and drowning in -- fractured shards of picayune details.

For instance, when people complain that their rigs are too big, too wide, or have low ground clearance, and therefore "can't boondock very well,''  let's rephrase that to what they really mean: there are zillions of good camping sites that would accommodate their behemoths. The trouble is in getting to those campsites, rather than what happens when you get there. 

Some recent operations on my rental lot in Yuma might provide some inspiration and guidance. You see, my landlord is in the construc…

Uses for a Cold Day in a Yuma Igloo

Was it a waste of time to read some of the non-famous-novels of Tolstoy and a biography of Gandhi, "Gandhi Before India." by Ramachandra Guha? Today most people see the "prophet" Tolstoy as a prudish, anti-sex crusader and a romanticizer of Russian peasants. Gandhi was obsessed with diet and holiness even back in his student days in London.

Perhaps, instead, I should read about their actions and ideas that make them remembered as great men, rather than as oddballs and cranks. But maybe it is not that simple. Recall that Isaac Newton wrote more theology than mathematical physics. Was he not earnest in both endeavours? How could the same mind and personality be brilliant in one field and a forgettable crank in the other?

Perhaps we fail to read between the lines in their crank endeavors. More imagination might be needed to spot the great man in the fields where they did not shine.

At any rate I usually mock asceticism until it gets cold. Then I start acting like a holy …