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Showing posts from 2016

Cognitive Dissonance at Christmas

While flying for the first time in 20 years, I certainly saw the convenience of smartphones, compared to the clumsy laptop I was dragging around. It was a good example of 'cognitive dissonance.' But this Christmas I experienced an extreme example of cognitive dissonance. 

Let's shift a little bit first: I congratulate anybody who makes it through life without having to clean up the ghastly mess left by a relative who has died recently. So much of the mess was avoidable. But we all tend to ignore our own mortality, so a bit of orderliness doesn't get a chance.

The cognitive dissonance comes in when the relative's death occurs near Christmas. Look at all the maniac shoppers driving around, stressed out of their minds, crashing into each other in the parking lots. Yesterday I actually saw a pickup truck turn a road's shoulder into a driving lane by jumping his right-hand wheels over the curb, and up onto a sidewalk.

It would never occur to these shoppers that their p…

Navigating by Feeling the Topography

Do you suppose there are people in this racket (RVing) who aren't map/geography nerds? Anything is possible I suppose. At any rate, such a person would not like this post.

I had to drive from Quartzsite to Havasu to find a veterinarian to remove some infected cactus spines from my dog. The job was successful, so I was in a good mood driving home. Perhaps that had something to do with my sudden appreciation for the road design in that town.

Yes I know: it's not something that you think too much about, or would deem worthy to write about. But I tend to write about things that seem unusual; and enjoying the 'town planning' of any place is unusual, especially after disliking the road layout of Havasu in the past.

The road system was a grid of approximately orthogonal lines: one set of streets went roughly uphill, along the steepest gradient, away from the Colorado River. The orthogonal set of streets ran along isoclines, more or less, which eventually fell back down to the ma…

Making Peace With Quartzsite

A big part of an independent lifestyle is being able to appreciate things. Now and then I see a sudden jump-up in my appreciation of something -- many times a location. The more general question is what is holding me back? But let's consider a tangible example.

I have always found Quartzsite AZ difficult to appreciate. Most of the junk for sale isn't such a great bargain. Besides, what is so great about a clutter of miscellanea and detritus?

On the other hand, it has been easy to appreciate the fine winter weather: cool dry air with no insects. Quartzsite is not too crowded in December. Library privileges are offered to visitors.

This year I have made better use of the plexus of ATV trails that one of the camping areas has. Mornings are cool, so the motorhead crowd waits until afternoon. (And even then, it still ain't bad.) That makes these trails excellent in the mornings for mountain biking with my dog. 

I don't know why I overlooked this advantage, in the past. Perhaps …

UPDATE: Hope for the Generator Ghettoes During Winter

There is a tendency to be discouraged by the noise pollution when camping in the winter. Don't be. Things are improving. Solar panels and high quality generators are becoming more common.

And yet some people still buy one of those yellow P.o.S generators from China just to save $600. What fraction is that of their total rig expense? For many RVers, it is less than 1%. Hell, that's round-off error.

For those who are burdened by the $600, consider the alternative I posted about in the tab "Almost Needing a Generator," at the top of the screen.

Regardless of the noisiness of your neighbor's generator, most of its 'on-hours' would simply disappear if he put $200 into a proper "three stage" charger, such as Iota, Xantrex, Blue Sea, Samlex, etc.

But instead, your neighbor simply pulls the electrical power cord out of the hole in the side of the RV, just as he would in an RV park, sticks an adapter on the end, and plugs it into his generator.

Then what happ…

Finally Appreciating the Female Camper

Permission to speak freely? I have never envied men who camped with women. It's not that I don't appreciate women, it's just that the female camper usually seems like a proverbial 'fish out of water.' When I camped with a small band of RV campers this past summer, it really hit me that I had never considered this topic before, despite its importance to the human condition.

Imagine the poor devil camping in the desert in winter, and having to listen to the lawnmower-like scream of a vacuum cleaner for hours a day. Think of all the electricity it wastes. And yet, the crazed woman never thinks things are clean enough. She fancies herself a nature-lover (aka, a scenery snacker). Yet she thinks dust blowing in the desert wind is unnatural. This is one of the many examples of a woman-camper being a liability to the poor fellow. But who wants to give up on half the human race that easily?

Last summer my best conclusions about why women disliked camping were:
They lack sports…

How to Raise an RV Grasshopper

One of black squares in my checkered past is a brief stint at teaching. I say "black" because I was aware I wasn't very good at it. This seemed unfair, because my father was an excellent teacher. Perhaps that is why I am enjoying mentoring Grasshopper as he hooks up the solar panels, battery charger, and inverter on his new Nash trailer.

When he called up on the phone to buy my first trailer a couple years ago, I didn't think he showed much promise. He said that he had no house-handyman or technical experience. Worse yet, he didn't seem to desire overcoming that handicap. Any RVer who intends to camp outside RV parks and their hookups has to be a little bit willing to get involved with their RV.

Buying my boondocking trailer from me was a deft move by him, because all that solar/battery/charger/inverter stuff was done. Even better, it was visible, because I treated the trailer as a cargo trailer wannabee. And he asked questions from time to time.

Before getting bac…

The Lone Rider of Chinatown Wash

My dog was giving off an unusual bark at the screen door. Although it wasn't such a great idea, I let her charge out towards whatever or whoever was bothering her. It was a pretty, half-white horse and its human 'operator.' They were moving towards us on a mountain bike single-track trail. (Actually it is for other non-motorized users, too.)

I apologized to the horseman for my dog's barking, but neither he nor his horse seemed concerned. I guess they'd seen a dog or two in their day. They walked up to about one body-length from me, and calmly 'parked' themselves.

I felt an instant affinity for the man and horse, perhaps because I too am a lone rider on the same trails, albeit with a dog and mountain bike, instead of a horse.

I watch DVDs of TV westerns these days; "The Virginian" in particular. Horses always look so big in the show. But here the horse looked smaller. His eyes were even with mine. Of course they were three or four times as large. The …

Popular Tastes and the Recent Election

My entire central nervous system, my soul, my personal dignity, everything that seems to define my existence, is under assault right now.  I am having breakfast at a fast food joint, and using the "free" wi-fi. Free, my butt. Look at the price I am paying for it. A loudspeaker (of rather good quality) is blasting trashy popular music at me, as I try to read, write, and think.

Who selects this music?! But I should stop complaining. It could be rap music. Most of it is just lewd female shrieking in rather standard love songs. Gawd, I hate Whitney Houston.

But from a different angle, this torture is beneficial. Sometimes you need to be shocked into confronting unpleasant truths. Consider the recent elections from the perspective of popular music, movies, or whatever.

If this election did not prove 'Democracy: the God that Failed,' then at the very least it shows that universal suffrage is an absurdity. And yet, in the 1800's it was seen as 'progress' that ideal…

Praise for the Real Virtues of Veterans

It is important to offer honest praise for vitally important virtue. Is that what you hear in the standard speeches on Veterans' Day? I think you just hear empty and perfunctory slogans.

Pacifists and warmongers are fools. I assert that nothing is more important than defending your home against an outside invader. (Perhaps 'sacred' is a better choice than 'important.')

And think of the sacrifices soldiers make, when they do so! It goes a lot further than the chance of being injured or killed. What will they do for a living when it's over? What happens to their homes, farms, or financial savings? Will they get halfway decent medical care when the killing is over? How many years will their children's education be blocked? The same issues arise for the people that the soldier knows and cares about. What if the entire social and economic fabric of their country is torn up?

So many soldiers have made that sacrifice. If public speakers really meant what they say abo…

A Healthy Downsizing Project for Election Day

Election day is probably the only day that brings more relief than Christmas. And for pretty much the same reason: a protracted, half-insane process has finally ended. 

From an individual's point of view, both Christmas and presidential elections represent a marvelous opportunity to practice mental hygiene, by ignoring these two seasons as much as possible. If you do a good job at that, you have accomplished a lot more than by downsizing physical clutter in your life.

It's possible that I am fooling myself about how well I've performed this mental downsizing over the last 18 (?) months of the presidential election cycle. Very well then, at least I'll do a good job on election day.

Today's project will be the ultimate downsizing project. I will spend the day reading Benjamin Constant's "Political Principles." He seems rather forgotten today. A real shame. So far his book has been interesting and easy to read. For the most part it is an attack on Rousseau&…

The Longest Frog Hollow

It is quite something how popular 24-hour races have become over the last few years. But why should that matter to anybody other than extreme athletes? 

That was the challenge before me, as I camped in "Frogtown" and volunteered at the "longest 24 hour race in the world," so called because it goes from 10 am Saturday to 10 am Sunday, over the end of Daylight Savings Time. Thus it is 25 hours long in real time, and Frog-Time.

Practical benefit: I learned how some 29 inch mountain bikes will accommodate the 27.5 inch (aka, '650') wheels with 'plus' sized (wide) tires.  I was leaning to the 650 Plus bikes for my next mountain bike.

Additional benefit: having my nose rubbed in the obsolete-ness of my 26 inch mountain bike. Will I even be able to buy tires for it five years from now?

When roaming free range over a wide group of people, it is so easy to begin categorizing creatures. Otherwise the human mind drowns in minute and fractured details. Here is a li…

Real and Imaginary Loneliness When Camping

Yesterday I had a nice visit with the fellow who bought my first trailer from me. He bought my trailer for $1800, camped full time in it for two years, and then sold it for $20oo. The bastard!

I tend to treat him as my "grasshopper." So when the topic of loneliness came up, I was a bit disappointed to hear him endorse the "sacred solitude" paradigm of RV boondocking. But he didn't outright deny experiencing loneliness as some solitary campers do.

Let's take an indirect approach to this issue of the loneliness of campers, by experiencing the human tribe at its best, during a festival. Currently I am camping near, and volunteering for, a mountain bike race in southwestern Utah.

1. Racing. The festival is predicated on the idea that racing is supposed to be exciting. Observing the crowd's behavior, this appears to be true. But it is strange how any human endeavor must be turned into a competition.

Consider the expense of …

Some Hope for a Clinton Presidency

I have no prediction about who will win this presidential election. It is humbling to see my supposed knowledge of history provide so little perspicuity at this time. The closest thing you could offer to a 'solid bet' is that a Clinton presidency -- if one comes -- has no chance of accomplishing anything, because it will be mired in legal battles, scandals, charges and counter-charges.

Ah but wait...maybe history does offer hope for a Clinton presidency. In order to distract the public from her endless scandals and legal problems, couldn't she go 'all in' for War? It would be easy for her to go that direction. She is already a neo-con, and part of the Beltway foreign policy consensus. She is the Defense sector's favorite candidate, other than John McCain.

More American involvement in Syria is the most likely course. But considering the sheer number of scandals and possible indictments, she should keep her options open on bombing and invading Crimea, Poland, the B…

Clicking the Camera Versus Taking a Photograph

This is the wrong time of year to talk about this photograph, but I can't help it. It should be presented at the end of May or whenever tedious speeches are given all over the country at graduation ceremonies. You know how it goes. The speaker drops into a stentorian tone of voice, "...and furthermore, students and parents, let me remind you of one more thing: that this is a Beginning, not an Ending." Or something like that.

The idea is basically correct. We shouldn't be throwing tomatoes at the pompous speaker just because the phrasing is so hackneyed. 

Take this as an opportunity. Many of the most important truths in life lose their force with repetition. Rather than switching our attention to trivial novelties, the timeless and classic Ideas need to "reincarnated" in particular situations, with characters that we actually care about, so that the Truth matters once again. That should be the mission of novelists, screenwriters, painters, and photographers.


Metaphorical Caption Contest

After an evening rain I awoke to fog and low clouds playing games with the mesas of central Utah. Actually it seemed more like a rapid military invasion and conquest.

I was quite sincere in my Photographic Manifesto that there is a worthwhile purpose to cluttering the internet with one more photograph. That purpose is the visual representation of an important idea, rather than trivial prettiness and entertainment. Visual representations of ideas have advantages over the tedious word-wrangling of authors.

The trick is to photograph things that suggest -- that lure -- the viewer into finishing the connection between different objects in the photograph. But it must not be too difficult to make the connection, or the viewer won't even try. They will just say, "This photograph really ain't that purdy." And then turn away from it.

It would please me to see readers offer metaphorical captions to the photograph above. For my part, it reminds me of the essay by William Graham Su…

Democracy and Football: the Gods that Failed

An optimist would say that it can only get better from now on: that America has hit absolute bottom in this year's election. For my part, I feel pretty good about ignoring the long primaries season. Just think how much cultural pollution my mind was spared, because of that. Besides, thinking about politics just makes a person sour and angry.

I still think the best way to handle this frustration is to channel it into reading history. Look at the two candidates America has chosen to run for president, and ask yourself if you were brainwashed in school about how democracy really works, and why it was so great.

Perhaps I should read the book, "Democracy: The God that Failed." But I am afraid the book may be academic and full of abstruse libertarian theology.

The older you get, the easier it is to be content with small accomplishments. I am feeling pleased with myself for ignoring the NFL professional football season, so far. Actually it ma…