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Showing posts from March, 2018

The Holy Man in the White Van Syndrome

The new template for this blog updates it some, but any blog that involves reading is still passé compared to the one-line quips and postcards of social media, or to the television-like experience of You Tube -- or should we call it Yoob Toob in honor of Boob Toob? My data plan is not unlimited, so I haven't been too tempted to fall into the habit of being glued to the Yoob Toob. But what I have seen of it has been disappointing. It's not like the world really needed one more way to waste time by consuming info-tainment. Apparently it has become quite the meme to convert vans into small RVs, and then show it off on the Yoob Toob. There are good practical reasons for that.  But there is something strange about it, too. They seem to think they are the first person on the planet who has ever done something like this before; that the Yoob Toob viewer needs a thousand-and-one microscopic details; and that they are now some sort of celebrity. No sooner does the guy convert his van

The Historian, the Photographer, and the Babushka

I've read quite a bit of Russian history the last couple years. In part, it is a rebellion against the 'Boris & Natasha' silliness in the news -- not that an attempted soft coup d'etat is silly. And there were other reasons. By now it is reasonable to ask whether all this history-reading is time well spent. Although the odds were against it, Google helped me find some Russian photographs to complement my reading. Take a look at this photograph from Beyond Sochi: Photos Of Russia By Russians Would you agree that this is not a trivial postcard of the type you have seen on the internet a million times? Doesn't it make you feel like you are right there, in the babushka's shoes? Now think of Tolstoy's essay, "What is Art?" , wherein he argues against the common notion that Art is about beauty, and instead, claims that art is the transference of feelings to the observer, by means of pictures, sounds, and words. The photograph is an ex

Laundromats Are Not the Best Part of Traveling

It is strange how much 'how-to' advice there is on the internet for travelers. But genuinely useful advice is not to be found. Take laundromats. Any beginner may be displeased by the cost of doing laundry. Here's my advice: don't be too cheap. Do yourself a big favor, go to a laundromat with an attendant on duty, and pay a little more. Otherwise the place is a dump. I was at one of America's premier laundromats the other day. I look forward to it, once or twice a year. But I had to ruin it by being greedy. The music that was playing seemed strange. It was a local station, playing what goes for "country" music, these days.  The good news is that it wasn't the ugliest music that there is. But I wondered how the music racket works these days.  It's as if music has become an 'autonomous vehicle' for the ears and the soul. The "country" music sounded like elevator-rock with sappy lyrics, pronounced in a 'before the Great Vowe

Yoga for Chilly Travelers

Several times I have attempted -- and pretty much failed -- to convince readers of the value of surviving winter without a furnace. Very well then... one more try and then I'll quit. I'll be a good sport by consigning the readers to the fleeting shadows of perpetual unenlightenment. The time for 'glory' was running out for this winter. A new warming trend was starting today. Just in the nick of time, the temperature inside my trailer went below freezing -- a magical place that can seem unattainable. (Once again, compare this to the beginning of the movie, "The Right Stuff," when the Air Force was trying to break the sound barrier.) I celebrated the occasion by heating water and putting it in the flexible water bladder (Platypus brand), and then inserting it under my parka. But the real moment of enlightenment occurred yesterday. For a couple nights I had been sleeping in my insulated bib overalls. In the morning I simply got out of bed, threw the parka ove

"Zero Visibility Possible"

Normally I don't drive my rig on windy days. But I was doing it today, with the excuse being that I had a tail wind. A brown cloud was visible in the sky over towards the infamous Willcox AZ playa. But I was already downwind of that, so why not keep going east to New Mexico? Soon there were the famous signs along Interstate-10 warning of  "Zero Visibility Possible." I have seen these for many years, and always had a good chuckle over them. The first indication of something unusual coming up were state police cars, with their lights flashing. Then the sky ahead looked murky -- but more of a dirty white color than the brown you would expect. As traffic slowed, the semi-truck ahead of me looked 'weird.' I could see down the entire 'port' (left) side of it, even though I was directly behind, with no turns in the road. Apparently the wind from 'port' was 'quarter aft', and it caused the trailer of the semi-truck to blow into an angle that

The Over-Improved (D-I-Y) Van Syndrome

Notice to readers: to find the information that used to be in the margin of my old layout, click on the three parallel lines in the upper right of this page. ______________________________________ I did a double-take when I biked by that van this morning. The lady of the house was resting in her bed, with the van's rear doors open to the glorious morning sun. Rightly or wrongly, I tend to open conversations with mock-scolding about something that the other person is quite proud of. (On "paper" this approach would create an instant enemy. But in person, they can tell you are just funnin' them.)  In this case, the entire roof of a huge Mercedes Sprinter van was covered with solar panels. She got the joke, so we ended up with a nice conversation about their converted van. It was a marvelous piece of D-I-Y work that they deserve to be proud of.  But, several times in the conversation, a yellow light started blinking in the back of my head. I wondered how many of

Time to Switch Your Animal Species Loyalty?

Is it good or bad to declare solidarity with an animal species other than the one everybody says you belong to? That question is unavoidable as I look out my trailer's door to see a half dozen trekkers per day on their way north on the 800 mile Arizona Trail. Of course I can't know whether they are doing the entire course. How do you explain these people? Is it simply an ego-achievement sort of thing, like running a marathon? Or are they reinventing a religious experience in a post-Christian, secular age? If so, we should call them ' los peregrinos, ' the pilgrims. Or are they actually having fun? If they consider 800 miles of water-less, hot, blistering trudging -- plodding! -- to be fun... well, they aren't the same animal species as me! It is so easy to understand the fun of my dog as we start off in the morning, biking slightly downhill. Soon she is blasting away at 20 mph, even though she is going on 12 years old. We have to run the gauntlet along yard

The Most Successful Organization in America

Guns are in the news, again. There is a way to put that to constructive use, while avoiding the stuff that has been talked to death already. This is easier to do if you have no real interest in the issue of guns or their control, and that is the case with me. Think of how alien gun culture is to the average soccer mom in the big city. Think of how out-of-date gun culture is to modern, city-centered culture, where all the money and votes are. And yet gun ownership is still alive! How do you explain the success of the gun lobby in defending their hobby? There has got to be a lesson in their success for anybody in any organization which wants to succeed. Somebody should write a book on this.  I do not want to talk about 'gun control.' I want to talk about how a lobby can succeed when everything seems stacked against it.