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Serendipity at Sunrise

What perfect timing! The coffee shop was just about to open, almost at the second the rising sun hit its front door. Ahh, how nice. It is summer in southern New Mexico, and the mid-day sun is already an enemy; but of course that means it is still winter at sunrise. I was looking forward to sitting outdoors in the chilly air, feeling half-frozen in my winter parka, and maybe catching some warming rays on the face, while drinking hot coffee.

But I wasn't the only customer with this idea:


At first I thought she was just a cute little street urchin, looking for a handout on her morning rounds, like Benji in the original Benji movie. But she was keeping an eye on her human partner who was inside the coffee shop.

Click on the photo and blow up the warning sign near her eye level. She came so close, but she wouldn't cross the threshold. Girls like to follow rules.

Her human partner came out to sit and bask in the chair. I learned that the little dog's name was "Honey." And …

The Ultimate Triumph for a Consumer

Dare I hope? Or will that just jinx me? After years of pining and yearning, I may have finally found the ultimate flashlight for my camper. But why waste words:





Glorious isn't it?! For years the industry plagued me with those damn cylindrical flashlights that would roll around on the floor when you tried to use them for anything.

Even worse, they used those cursed little AA and AAA batteries. If that wasn't enough, the switches were always flimsy, or the battery holder door would pop off.

And so I dreamed the impossible dream, and found it. At Walmart of all places. It was a sensible price: that is, not as high as the 'jewelry/boutique' flashlights, but not as low as low end consumer junk.

The label calls it "Hyper Tough", made by Intertek. It is USB rechargeable. The battery is lithium.

I just love those little elastomeric bumpers at the four corners. So touuuuuuugh! This must be a Guy Thing. 

Perhaps this post seems facetious to the reader, but it is not meant th…

A Bourgeois Philistine at an Art Show

Somewhere in Ben Franklin's Autobiography he rises to the defense of Pride as a Virtue, rather than Humility as a Virtue. I see his point, for I have just finished going to an art show that my friend invited me to, and am feeling like a Big Shot because I actually enjoyed looking at something there.

In fact I came perilously close to even buying something there. It is hard to believe. 

There was one table full of ceramic bowls, plates, and mugs. The colors appealed to me, even though I am usually indifferent to colors. Perhaps it helped that the colors were somewhat muted earth tones instead of the garish and girlish colors that are more usual at an art show.

Or maybe it was the possible functionality of the ceramic work. If only my brain didn't automatically go into "optimize the equations" mode, and block any kitchen receptacles other than melamine, the lightest and most durable material for a traveler.

Another way of looking at art is to de-emphasize the end result an…

Obsolete for a Quarter of a Century

There is no point in an amateur blogger reacting to the daily news, especially if they just hashed-and-rehashed the same stuff picked over by professional bull-shitters.

There is something to be gained by an amateur blogger questioning the assumptions of the professional bull-shitters. The latter don't overtly lie so much as they tacitly agree not to discuss certain questions; that is, they lie by omission, not commission.

With that preface out of the way, NATO is "celebrating" its 70th birthday. There has been a bit of discussion about NATO, but they safely avoid discussing anything important. For instance, the media considers it safe to discuss whether European countries contribute enough money to this worthless cause. 


Does anyone ever say, "NATO has been obsolete for a quarter of a century?" Probably not. That would get you accused of being a crank, radical, or Russian Collusionist.

There are even more fundamental issues. Europe is ceasing to exist. It (or rath…

A Star is Born

It has been quite a challenge to be a doggie's uncle; especially when the dog is a one-year-old, intact male. He was a street urchin picked up by my friend. His coloration reminds you of a blue heeler, but the body type isn't right for that.

I concluded that his other half is Mexican Grey Wolf, based on the body, head, teeth, and behavior!

At first I resisted zapping him with his electric training shock collar. But after he rammed his muzzle and canine teeth into my chin, I have become a training nazi.

On the other hand, he is a real lover boy, friendly, athletic, and good-hearted. His name is 'Hopi.' He has been learning to mountain bike with me. We only had one mishap, which cost me a knee cap. But I still have one good one, left. Unrelated to that, cattle gates still confuse him.



Although he isn't going to become my dog, it has been fun to become a type of foster parent, or uncle, to him.

So much of his significance comes from considering what he represents. Seeing a…

"do svee DAH nyah" to the Democratic Media

So what happens now? Will there be an investigation of collusion between the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign with FBI employees and members of the Obama administration?


I predict there won't be a forceful investigation; in part, because of fatigue, and in part because of the mild milquetoast-ness of many Republicans.

But there may be a more sinister reason: perhaps they are afraid to investigate the FBI. The FBI's dirty tricks over the years would be brought to light, and besmirch the authority of the Central Government.

And perhaps the FBI simply has too much dirt on politicians in both parties. It would be easy for it to get revenge against Congress.

The FBI has the same position relative to the American Empire that the Praetorian Guard had to the Roman Empire, or the Janissaries had to the decaying Ottoman Empire.

Although I feel no real rage towards the Gullibles (the competitors of the Deplorables) who believed the mainstream media feeding frenzy over th…

If Only There Were More Artists!

The title of this post seems facetious, considering I am located in a small town that appears to have too many artists.

But what kind of art? It is 'pretty' stuff that is bought by well-heeled matrons from the big city, to cover white spaces on the walls of their new McMansion. Cyootsie-wootsie and useless.

And then, by chance, I ran across another type of art that really affected me. Recall Tolstoy's essay, "What is Art?", wherein he defines art as sounds, words, and pictures that transfer emotions from the artist to the viewer/audience.

The cartoon was lifted out of LivingStingy.blogspot.com. I am not sure where he lifted it from, but at least the cartoon is signed.

What an under-rated artist a cartoonist can be! Expect to see this cartoon show up again on Fourth of July and Veteran's Day posts.




Individuals Versus Political Stereotypes

It seems as though there are twice as many Arizona Trail walkers as there were last year. It has been cool and rainy, so none of them have had the silver umbrellas strapped to their backpacks that they've had in the past. I loved those para-sols. Taken as an individual thing, a parasol almost makes me sympathetic to what I call 'los peregrinos,' since that is the only way I can visualize somebody being motivated to pursue such a slow, plodding sport through so many miles of ghastly heat. Yes, peregrinos of the Church of the Holy Green.

At least they fit in with the town. There is some mine exploration or cleanup of old mining areas in the vicinity. Most of the town dislikes the mining industry, and tried to stop it from reviving in the local mountains. I am the misfit in town, because I was pro-miner. Still, I can't say I enjoy sharing the narrow dirt roads with their big trucks.

On the way back from today's ride, I could see a giant red dump truck approaching from t…

Finding a Way to Get Interested in Nature

This part of Arizona is crawling (literally) with caterpillars and poppies. Some moisture in the winter certainly has done this place some good.

There seems to be a caterpillar monoculture right now.


They are not particularly fun to look at; except for one thing. They crawl surprisingly fast across the roads and driveways. It's a good thing they do: it's a dangerous way to make a living! 

Perhaps because of their high speed, dogs notice these caterpillars, and come up to investigate. The dogs do not harm the caterpillars; they just come up slowly and sniff at them.

It's odd the way the caterpillar slams on the brakes and becomes completely motionless. In the past I've noticed rabbits playing the same trick on dogs.

After 10 minutes or so, the caterpillar shifted into 'Drive' again. It was a close call for this little critter. Humble though they be, there is a drama to the situation. It seems that there must be some sort of drama, or at least motion, for me to get in…

Time to Abandon Microsoft?

The other day Microsoft sent me a love letter notifying me of the end of their "support" of Windows 7 in January of 2020. Does that mean I should stop using my Windows 7 computer at that time? 

Running to the Google empire is not such an attractive alternative. Google's original scheme with its Chromebooks was to get the user paying them annual rent for cloud storage, but more importantly, running algorithms on your data to find out how to target advertisments at every aspect of your life. Presumably, all of your data would be turned over to Washington DC spy and police agencies.

Why would anyone need cloud storage? Have you seen how cheap storage is? You can carry it around in your pocket in the form of a thumbdrive or SD card. (Of course there are people who hoard terabytes of photos and videos. Presumably, they don't read this blog.)

And you would need an unlimited data wireless (cellphone) plan if you were doing everything in the cloud.

So I'm not sure what to do…

Mud Therapy

It is strange that the really great things in nature are never talked about. Nobody praises cold rain and mud.

It was finally a good day to go mountain biking. I had to cross two wet streams to get to the 'trailhead.' I didn't even know there were dry washes there. But now enough water was flowing that I was forced to stop and study the situation. Recall the old "Do Not Cross When Flooded" signs.

But I did cross because I knew the bottom was gravel. What a glorious thing it is to see water flowing!

After the ride we found ourselves at a local coffee shop, unaccustomed as we are to places like that. Normally I would look up at any kind of shade cloth or viney pergola and admire it.

But today I deliberately chose a sunny table! 

But exulting is cheap if it is just verbal -- let's do something real to celebrate the occasion, such as putting my anti-postcard policies on vacation, briefly.


And one has to break in a new camera somehow.

A Movie That Actually Affects People

The other day I thought it strange to be delighted by a consumer/shopping experience, since that has happened so seldom in life, despite the fact that buying crap is really the only purpose an American serves.

Today I was rewatching "A Dog's Purpose." Once again it is strange to think what a big industry movies/television is, and how seldom it really has any effect on us. 

Why then do we watch all this crap? I suppose it is because it is an affordable and easy way to kill time.

But this movie was one of the rare success stories. Let's think about other success stories over the course of a lifetime. Maybe they have something in common.

There have been memorable musical scores for movies that really had an effect on me. Think Bernard Herrman, John Barry, and a half dozen other composers. But "A Dog's Purpose" had no effect on me musically. 

It has been true that 'Boy Meets Dog, Boy Loses Dog' type movies have usually had a powerful effect on me (and ma…

Liberating Yourself From Amazon

I have never been a big fan of shopping at Amazon. Can't people see what a trap they are falling into when they sign up for Amazon Prime? Paying $100 up-front is a real turn-off at Amazon, as it is at Costco.

Even though I am moochdocking on a friend's driveway, I still had problems with getting Amazon to accept the address, despite having a real street address and a real post office box. That did it! I went on the warpath against Amazon.


The good news is many other websites offer free shipping once you meet a $35 to $50 minimum order. And their websites work well. And I don't seem to have the problems with addresses, like at Amazon.

All I can say is, "It's about time!" You'd think that somebody big like Walmart, Google, or Oracle would make a good website available to any retailer, and then let them disguise the appearance of the website to make it look a little more home-grown. (Thus, there would be no need for each smallish retailer to have in-house softw…

Wow Dude, This Was, Like, So Cool!

There was a time not so many generations ago when Americans actually made things for a living. Today we just shop for a living, either online or driving around in heavy traffic to stores. As hard as it is to believe, some people actually enjoy shopping.

For my part, I haven't had a wonderful experience shopping more than a couple times in my lifetime. I had one today.

It seemed like a good idea to put a metal dog tag on my new camera, since it is the most expensive camera I have ever owned. The machines that make these metal dog tags keep getting better. I made mine at Petsmart.

Yes, it had a digital menu. Normally this would put me in an incendiary mood, but this menu was intelligently designed.

You just slide the tag into the machine in an unambiguous way, and watch the laser-scribing through a glass window. Fascinating and beautiful! It could even scribe on both sides of the tag, so there was enough room to say, "Text" and then my phone number. I asked the store employee …

The Glory of Dirt

It has been so many years since I experienced a real winter -- rain, mud, and clouds -- that I have forgotten how dreary it can be. So it is hard to appreciate the desert as much as it deserves.

Therefore the mind focuses on getting sick of cholla and rubble. But that is OK actually because it whips up an appetite for dirt again!


Just imagine:  the bike's wheels moving along smoothly, without smashing, bashing, and crashing on that damned desert rubble!

Glorious grasslands and soil in southeastern Arizona. Soil really is the best geology.

A Remarkable Small Town Library

Once again I am quite affected by the movie, "Paradise Now." It seems that I rewatch it every year that I revisit the Patagonia library.

During my years of travel, there have been a handful of public libraries that stood out. They offered something of quality -- not just the usual mass market drivel. It feels good to see somebody "come through" for you, like that. 

But why doesn't it happen more often? Isn't a high quality selection of books, music, and movies seen as part of the culture of society, and isn't culture important? 

I could offer four of five bullet-points on possible answers to this question. But analyzing it would kill the mood I feel after watching this marvelous movie. 

More generally it seems that most places are content to be like every place.

Oscar Who?

Pop quiz: what was the last movie you saw? What year did you last see a movie at the theatre?

It is getting so I am not even sure which decade it was when I last went to a movie theatre. I guess you could say that movie DVD rentals still make the movie industry important.


But isn't it strange that there is still so much hype and hoopla over the Academy Awards, when the movie industry is sinking into irrelevancy? Is so-and-so going to say something against Trump at the awards? Will Hottie Buns win an award, or expose 80% of her body during a speech, or will it be 82%? How earth-shaking! Stay tuned!!!

Why not spew out vast amounts of publicity over who won the Pulitzer Prize, despite the fact that the newspaper industry is dying?

Or why not glorify the hero who works for the United States Post Office and won this year's "Employee of the Year" award?

The Wandering Holy Men of the Desert

If it is possible for the smirk to become seated permanently in the muscles and wrinkles of the human face, then I am running a risk right now. It is impossible to read a history of early Christianity and not see parallels with bloggers, vloggers, and self-proclaimed holy men of the winter camping scene.

But my smirking is not mean-spirited. I just find the parallels amusing. After all, times are so different now than 400 A.D.; and yet certain psychological drives persist. Why I even know one blowhard on the internet who brags about not using any heat in his camper! (grin.)

Should I give a list of quotes from the book? Maybe that would get too drawn-out. Perhaps it suffices to put in an endorsement for "The First Thousand Years," by Robert Milken (A Global History of Christianity.)

Asceticism is only one parallel between early Christianity and modern desert camping. Consider:

The growing pains in any movement; certain forms of decay.Fire-breathing rebellions against that decay.T…

The Un-desert

It certainly is ironic how a desert is at its best when it is temporarily acting like an un-desert. Do you think there is a 'moral' to this story?

It was wonderful to experience the slow rain in the desert this morning. Numerically it might have amounted to only a couple hundredths of an inch. But every drop soaked in. The desert even seemed soggy. And it smelled so good!


Of course it is easy to praise rain when there is no soil and therefore no mud. The roads are pure gravel and rock around here.
________________________________

By the way, the photograph above answers the question that a commenter recently asked about 'why I was even troubling myself over shopping for a new camera.'

Objectively, the scene was of pendulous raindrops, clinging to desert vegetation. But the camera's response to the harsh backlight turned the scene into luminous globules or water balloons.

Thus the photograph is a visual representation of the theme of this post. This can be a very satisfy…

Our Digital Menu-driven World

It has been quite an eye-opener to shop for cameras. It seems that if you hate on-screen menus as much as me, and you desire a rotary "mode dial" that allows you to select things like Aperture-priority shooting, you will soon be in the $400 price range.

I'll bet the mode dial itself only raises the manufacturing cost by a dollar or two. But the business model says,"Soak the bastard" if he thinks of himself as photographer enough to want manual control over the camera.

Sometimes the website won't even let you know whether there is a mode dial or not. It will make you dig through all their verbiage.

This has been educational. It reminded me of the frustration I usually feel when drowning in the digital menus of just about any gadget these days. Remember the first time I walked into a McDonald's that used an ordering-kiosk? I started mouthing off, right in the store.



But if you really want a scary thought, just imagine the "information console" in th…

Waiting For a Winning Streak with Books

Reading history books is not for sissies; nor for people who demand instant gratification. In fact one must expect to endure a great deal of drudgery before finally getting onto a winning streak.

I have done just that, recently. How refreshing it is to escape the cloistered writing of scholarly bookworms who have spent their entire lives with their noses buried in other people's books.


Contrast that with the chapter on Jacob Burckhardt in Michael Dirda's "Classics for Pleasure:"

In those days, many scholars refused to confine their efforts to some narrow field of specialization; in fact, they ranged across subjects with the swagger of adventurers, soldiers of fortune, condottieri.

For Burckhardt, the Renaissance in Italy is essentially an age of energy and charisma, when a man was "forced to be either hammer or anvil."
Contrast that with overly verbose historians, who drown you in microscopic details that never add up to anything. So many of this type have no pe…

Before Everybody Was Clogging the Back Roads

I certainly looked twice when I saw this off-road classic sitting in the downtown plaza in Ajo, AZ. I sighed with pleasure, and fluttered my eyelashes at the car. This seemed odd because antique car festivals do not interest me in the least.  

What was it about this off-road classic? Why was I mooning and swooning over it?



It is hard to imagine the owner of a modern "off-roader" jumping into this classic. (This refers to crossover-utility-vehicles, CUV.) There aren't eight air bags in the classic. And no 8" information display in the center of the dash. Actually dozens of modern "necessities" are missing. 

Something about the classic vehicle and its owner smacks of moral integrity.

Those were the days when family campers went to 'the lake' on the weekend, or maybe to a state park. They didn't blast around on dirt roads, making noise and traffic, where dispersed campers are trying to 'get away from it all,' and where I would like to ride my…

A Chiaroscuro for the Skin

Has another warm winter made me soft? Apparently it has.

Last night I finally used the warmer sleeping bag, purchased recently. (It's nominal rating is -25 F.) In the morning I deigned to heat up water for a bladder, and to insert it into my parka. But it wasn't that cold inside the camper -- 38 F is nothing extreme. (I refuse to use propane heat.)

But once the sun came up, I was lured into another mountain bike ride -- this time to town for a visit to the coffee shop, and a few errands.

Later in the afternoon I sat in a chair on the south side of the trailer and faced the sun. Sunlight was reflecting off a small piece of broken glass lying on the desert pavement. It was so bright that I could only look at it with my eyes mostly closed.

Normally this would be unpleasant. But under the circumstances it felt wonderful. I moved my chair closer to the leeward side of the white trailer. It felt like a warm oven.


How utterly perfect it was to balance the recent cold air with a warm effus…

Drinking the Desert Air

I almost didn't go for a mountain bike ride today. The excuse was that it was too windy and cool. But my 12+ year old dog didn't feel the same way. She was insistent, as if she were still a wild puppy girl.

I'm glad she won the argument. In fact it wasn't too cool. The wind was moderated by some of the gullies and hills I rode through. Actually the air felt wonderful on the skin. You must try to appreciate how rare this is, in the desert Southwest.


What great timing! I am camera-less right now, and having little luck in finding a new camera. But why not try to turn that to advantage? 

Didn't Shakespeare say something like, 'A young man falls in love with his eyes, rather than his heart...'  Travelers have the same problem: they can't reach out to nature except through their eyeballs. The ubiquity of digital cameras, social media, and blogs has worsened the disease: nothing is worth appreciating unless it makes a purty postcard (and brings applause from …

The Evil One is Back

There are plenty of Arizona snowbirds who think that sunny 70 F weather is perfect. What do they know? They are just tourists.

On a day of this so-called perfect weather I couldn't believe the force of the sun. Wasn't it just a month ago that we were worried about the solar panels charging the batteries completely?

A feeling of pure dread came over me. Here it is, the first of February, and I am already being knocked into 'hide from the sun' mode.




The sun is already a Malevolence. It is the purpose of all Life to vanquish it  -- or be vanquished by it.

Failing to Find a Camera with Aperture Control

Supposedly there are people in this modern world of ours who are "addicted" to internet shopping. I just don't understand...

I thought addictions were moral failings because they held you enslaved to short term pleasures, with the consequences of long term pain.

But internet shopping is not pleasurable, in the short term. Or any term.


How could Amazon bury you under so much useless information, while not putting the user's manual at the top of the screen, in a nice box that you could just click? Do they really think you want to read through all that florid (sales) prose, or read 647 reviews by people who have owned the camera for 3 days?

But, you say, I should be watching reviews on You Tube, instead of reading reviews. Gimme a break! Show me a You Tube reviewer whose idea of useful information consists of something more than, "Ya know, like, wow dude, this is another really coooool feature of this camera..." in every other sentence.

The camera manufacturers th…

What to Do When You Murder Another Camera?

Recently my camera 'paid the ultimate sacrifice, in the line of duty,' during a mountain bike crash. That is not good news, but there is an opportunity in it. It is a chance to think about whether I should even bring a camera. What exactly am I trying to accomplish? What is the benefit of photography?

And if I do decide to get another camera, should it be one that is strong in macro photography (that is, close-ups). I find macro photography more interesting than bar-coded  landscape postcards.

Appreciating the visual arts has been a tough slog for me, but it can be made to work. I have slowly learned to appreciate good cinematography, that is, the telling of a story with moving pictures. Cinematography is what makes a movie different than a photographic record of two people standing in a room talking at each other.

I've also learned to appreciate still photographs (or even cartoons) as visual metaphors. It has become a habit to google "photos of X", and then choose …

Maybe Laughter Really Is the Best Medicine

Long-suffering readers don't need to hear me go on another rant about the foolishness of mountain bike culture. Suffice it to say that I let myself get sucked into a bit of that culture the other day, and paid the price by going over the handlebars and smacking onto desert gravel. That was better than rocks! But the camera paid the ultimate price.

I was hurting more than I ever had, from a bicycle accident. But bruises are better than broken bones. The bruises were concentrated on the chest/ribs and the hip.

A couple nights later I was watching an episode from the third season of Wagon Train, with Mickey Rooney as the guest star. The title was "The Greenhorn." Rooney plays a newbie in Missouri getting outfitted for the western journey. Of course he did all the things a greenhorn should do: overloading his wagon and overdressing.

Although the episode was only mildly humorous, the context of Quartzsite made it hilarious! Just think of all those RV newbies over there a few mil…

Best Reason For Not Attending Mass RV Rallies in Quartzsite

I can't remember whether I attended Quartzsite mass events more the twice. Naturally it was at the beginning of my career. The reasons for avoiding them ever since should be obvious, but the most important reason takes more thought.

As the sub-title of this blog says, this blog is about travel from the point of view of an early retiree -- despite the fact that I am now the standard retirement age.

An early retiree used to take some pride in 'marching to the tune of a different drummer.' There was some uncertainty in what he was attempting to do. Would he use his time well? Would the lifestyle be admirable, or would it just be an extended scenery vacation? It was an adventure -- and one that had to be worked out on a personal level. 

But when you attend mass RV rallies, you see the industry reduce the lifestyle to a stereotype. The adventure has become a formula. It no longer has to be worked out on an individual basis.

The newbie just has to go to discussion forums, blogs, and…

Deplorables and Fireworks on Public Lands

You can't set your expectations too low for weekend warriors who are camping on public lands. (And crowded public lands at that!) At the moment the yahoos a couple hundred yards away from me are shooting off fireworks at dusk.

I believe that fireworks (even sparklers) are illegal on public lands, regardless of the time of year. You should never tell yahoos that you are thinking of calling the authorities -- it could be dangerous.

Besides, would it do any good to call authorities right now? Perhaps the local sheriff would come out, even though the land is federal. I don't know what the situation is with federal law enforcement personnel, right now. 

And if they weren't shooting off fireworks they would be (legally) blasting away at tin cans with military-grade firearms, or blasting away with a yellow Chinese generator, or thumpah thumpah music from outdoor 300 watt speakers, or blasting around other people's camp with a UTV or dune buggy...or farting, scratching at their a…

Miracles in the Desert

If there were ever any doubt in your mind that the 'medium is the message,' consider the air right now in snowbird Arizona.  We have been experiencing a couple quiet miracles lately. But even somebody who isn't a standard tourist/snowbird must make an effort to appreciate them.

We have had some decent rains. A faint green 'lawn' is appearing across the desert. 



That should take your breath away, right there! But if you need more...this morning there were small droplets of water flocculating on this green lawn. In some parts of the world they belittle this miracle by calling it 'dew'.


The air is moist. It feels so gentle against the skin. Do you know what if feels like for your skin -- the largest organ in the human body -- not to be at war with its environment!

These are small miracles in the desert.  And then people want to show postcards of saguaros or palm trees against a red sunset. (aaarrgh!)