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Stupid Is as Stupid Does

Running water, in New Mexico? It just goes to show you that anything in this old world is possible. But it was worrisome: there was too much force to it. Should I or shouldn't I?

The slippery slope of a stream crossing. The photograph does not show the small waterfall downstream, to the right. It would have destroyed the van.

It certainly helps not to be a young buckaroo anymore. What did I need to prove? Besides, a driver has no experience with moving water. And experience could be expensive.

So I didn't even try it. The deciding factor was imagining the locals talking about some dang city-slicker who was stupid enough to be swept down the river.

Would my mountain bike do better than the van? It would be interesting to probe the risk/reward situation with stream crossings. It is too bad there isn't a rational and non-catastrophic way to get good at stream crossings. 

I started this post as a short anecdote of a fun experience. But now it occurs to me that a stream crossing is a marvelous metaphor for many situations in life in which risk is difficult to manage: investments, legal problems, physical accidents of different kinds, addictions including drugs, and the ultimate risk of marriage.

While reading "A World Undone" by G.J. Meyer, I ran into a ghastly example of situations that make risk hard to manage. During the tense negotiations in the summer of 1914, just before the Great War started, Germany and Russia almost had a compromise worked out. 

If Russia only had a partial mobilization, Germany would also hold back. In turn, the Austrians would agree to only punish the capital of Serbia, not the entire country. But the Russian generals told the Tsar that partial mobilization was impossible -- that it would throw their army into total confusion. In other words, 'partial' meant 'zero'. So the Russians opted for total mobilization. Germany responded with total mobilization. The result was the destruction of half of the twentieth century.


John V said…
People attempting to make fast-flowing water crossings is an example of Darwinism at it's best. We've been back in North ID for 10 days now and are getting our first rain today. Everything is so nice and green. It's been early January since we've seen any rain, we really have missed it.
Notice to readers: this blog does not endorse John V's advertisements for Idaho.
John V said…
Good point. Nobody should go there. It's just too crowded and there's nothing to do up there!
Jim and Gayle said…
I had the same experience in Fountain Hills, AZ a few months ago, but at least a half dozen other cars went through the water before me, so I followed them. I did worry the entire time that I would be the idiot on the news that night, if I survived ;-)
Ed said…

You should go back to the 'river' crossing on your bike and give it a try. However, I suggest that you test the crossing on foot with a staff for stability and to check for holes in the roadway. Just looking at the picture it does not look that hazardous but you were wise not to drive off into it unknowingly.

"The deciding factor was imagining the locals talking about some dang city-slicker who was stupid enough to be swept down the river."
Don't tell any local that you balked at the crossing; I'm imagining them talking about the city-slicker that was afraid to cross the water on XXXX road.
Perhaps we have exaggerated fears of water crossings just because of those local news stories!
In fact I did probe the water with my mountain bike today, but I only went 1/3 of the way across.
Anonymous said…
So you drive a Ford, how's that working out?
With all due respect, it discourages bloggers when commenters go off topic.
John V said…
Maybe off topic, but doesn't that van have something like 250,000 miles on it? I'd say driving a Ford has worked out just fine for you!