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Showing posts from October, 2019

The Decline and Fall of Southern Utah

I wasn't expecting it, but there it was. A long aluminum ladder slid out of a pickup truck in front of me on I-15 near St. George, UT. It slid fast on the pavement, so there would be several seconds before I could run over it. But what if it flipped up onto the windshield! With any luck, it would stay one lane to my left, and I wouldn't run over it at all. But pavement isn't completely uniform, so the sliding ladder was moving over towards my lane. I slowed down and moved to the right. No disaster occurred. How fitting and proper it was that this near-accident involved construction equipment near St. George, where half the economy is in the building trades. Everything I will say about St. George is colored by the fact that I knew the town before the population explosion started in the first years of the new millennium. Today, only the landscape is still recognizable. I doubt that it is much of a housing bargain anymore, unless you are retiring from a giant city, pro

Progress for Travelers Receiving Packages

Recall the question I once posed to a couple RVers at a laundromat: which is the worst form of hell, 1) spending eternity using or working at an RV dump, or 2) using a public laundromat. It was unanimous that #2 would be the ultimate hell. In recent years a third option has crept in: receiving a package from Amazon. The difficulty arises from Amazon not letting you choose to have your package shipped to a General Delivery address at a post office. Most of the time they use UPS, but you can't count on it.  Once they were on a "hot streak" with the UPS, so I addressed the package to the poorly manned service counter at the local UPS warehouse. Amazon saw their opportunity, so they sent the package via the US Postal Service. Hence it was rejected at the UPS warehouse. I bring you good news! I just got back from GNC, the vitamin/nutrition/health fad store at a local mall. Just last week they began the service of being an official "Amazon Hub Counter." D

A Storm on the 'Sagebrush Sea'

Aren't "blue northers" supposed to happen in Texas? Wow, we had one come through last night. No wonder this town is called "Hurricane." Perhaps we should adopt the Spanish word for storm, 'la tormenta.' Experiencing this thing at 10 p.m. reminds me to stop complaining about howling winds on a typical afternoon in the Southwest.  Last night, the wind noise and trailer-rocking made it difficult to sleep. Even a little scary. It was humbling, too.  Lately I have gotten hooked on Bernard Cornwell's "Saxon Tales" series of historical fiction, taking place at the time of Alfred the Great, when the island of Britain was torn between Christian Anglo-Saxons and pagan Danes. Every now and then, the main character is forced by circumstances to backslide into "Viking mode." Sea adventures and daring-do tend to make me flutter my eyelashes. This is a bit exaggerated with me because my grandfather came from a Baltic island of Sweden, s

World's First Iconic War Video?

How many people around the world saw the video of Syrian civilians pelting the (withdrawing) American vehicles with rocks and vegetables? Did those viewers have the same reaction I did? At first, it was pure schadenfreude. I wondered if that video would be looked back on, someday, as iconic, the 'moment' when Earth started rebelling against the American Empire.  What was it that Emerson said about the Americans at Concord bridge, 'here once embattled farmers stood, and fired the shot heard 'round the world?'  The Syrians were doing something better than firing at the American "heroes", which would have been counter-productive. The Syrians were expressing disdain and mockery. Much of the world may feel the same way about American "heroes" immured in their expensive military toys -- there is something cowardly and bullying about interfering in the affairs of small countries that are none of America's business.   There have been iconic pho

Defeated by the System

I consider it a real defeat that I finally joined one of the so-called Unlimited Data (postpaid) plans offered by my wireless provider. So much for my self-image as a guy who beats the System. My monthly bill will go up by 80% compared to my earlier pre-paid (16 GigaByte) data plan.  What is my excuse for debauching myself with an "unlimited" post-paid plan? Too often I got de-prioritized in the pre-paid plan. We were second-class wireless citizens who were too often sent to the "back of the line." In fact the internet had become unusable in many locations. The postpaid customers were sent to the "front of the line," supposedly. If you pay any attention to discussion forums -- and it's a good idea not to -- people harp endlessly about how the "unlimited" data plans are not really unlimited, because your service starts slowing down after 22 GigaBytes of data have been consumed. Well let's hope so! That is the real problem with the

Pleasures in a New Phone and Computer

It is human nature not to appreciate the difficulties of anybody else's job. I bought a new phone recently. And once again I am rolling my eyes at how underwhelmed I am by the work of the "IT" departments of the world, that is, by software engineers, search engine designers, and computer geeks in general. In the last month I have "upgraded" from an Android 7 phone to an Android 9, and from a Windows 7 laptop to a Windows 10. In both examples, there was a bit of fun in learning a new system.  But real progress is not obvious. It is harder to find what you are looking for, in a new system. What REAL improvement could they possibly come up with that would overcome the disadvantage of struggling to find things?! Most of the vaunted improvements in software or operating systems are of the same type as switching your socks in drawer A and underwear in drawer B. But there are compensations. It's great fun to obliterate the "bloatware" that the manu

Paradise Lost (Part 2)

It can be very satisfying to visit an area, neglected in the past, and make it work, this time. Green River was on my list this time. (I purposely avoided the shit-show over at Moab.) And indeed, it was working for me. Then I was alarmed by gunfire, too close for comfort. It became frightening. In all my years of camping I've never felt physical danger, until today. After a few seconds of panic, I realized that a nearby cliff was echoing the sound and making it appear worse than it was -- perhaps. The shooters seemed to be on the other side of a small knoll, perhaps a quarter mile away. But which way were the maniacs shooting? I got in the van to check them out. Indeed, they were on the south side of a knoll shooting parallel to the road -- north -- and over my trailer! The bullets were probably 30 feet or more over my trailer, so I wasn't that close to being declared collateral damage. A half dozen weapons were being used. One of them sounded like a shoulder-mounted

(Autumn) Paradise Lost!

I wonder how many RV wannabees look at the pretty scenery on blogs and vlogs, and then flutter their eyelashes about "Living the Dream" someday? To their eyeballs, the RV lifestyle must seem like an escape from reality. But it isn't. It might be an "alternative reality" in a "parallel universe," but it is not an escape from reality.  The most mordant illustration of this fact happens the third weekend of October in Utah. The kiddies get a school holiday on the same weekend that deer hunting season starts. Remember that red-state Utah is fond of guns, ATVs, and making babies. This weekend always causes my heart to sink. The weather and scenery are perfect in Utah in October -- and a cynic would say that 'things that seem too good to be true, usually are. '  Actually, it would be better to say that things can be perfect, here and there, for a  short while. And that is what happens until the third weekend in October. If you were consider

I Tawt I Taw a Pootie-Tat

What would happen if I encountered a pootie-tat on a mountain bike ride? Would my dog be foolish enough to run towards or away from the mountain lion? (She chased a black bear once.) But I've never seen a mountain lion in the wild. That's not to say that one hasn't seen me. I do carry a knife.  Would I have time to take a photo of it? Can't you see me calmly fumbling with getting the camera out of the handlebar bag, removing the lens cap, turning the camera on, and stepping down through the menu system, while the bright sun makes the screen illegible? Then I would have to remind the cat to smile.  In the meantime, this photograph is the best I can do. Can you spot the head and face of the cat?   The kitty is looking at something in the reef. Reefs are indeed one of most wonderful geological and topographic features of Utah, despite what the tourism industry says about those stupid arches.

The Benefits of a Freak Cold Front

After a lot of unnecessary worrying, the dreaded cold front has vanquished Utah. Actually it has turned out rather nice. I "retreated" to Green River to warm up. But Honour required me to first find a legal loophole: like a good general I am superstitious about retreating. But making a small loop back to where you were recently is different from "retreating." So that is what I did. Rather than sit in the trailer and freeze -- or worse yet, deign to use a heater or plug into shore power -- I am spending most of the day in the driver's seat of my van, with its huge windshield facing the sun! What a great feeling it is to be warmed by the sun, when you are surrounded by chilly air! Once upon a time, in a New Mexico winter, I left my bicycle jersey soaking in a bucket outdoors overnight. In the morning there was a layer of ice on top of the water, and the ice stuck to the jersey. When I hung it up on the clothesline in the morning sun, it seemed like a mira

Have We Seen the Future of the 21st Century?

Much of the destiny of the 20th Century was laid out in 1919, when the Versailles Treaty was worked out. Wouldn't it be a strange coincidence if September 2019 had the same significance for the 21st Century? That is the month of the successful attack against the Saudi oil facility by drones and missiles. The story fell off the "front pages" after only a week. But what is on the "front pages" should not concern anyone who tries to understand the world.  Perhaps September 2019 marked the end of the American hegemony of the post-World-War-II era, and the beginning of the Chinese hegemony of the 21st Century. The attack showed the obsolescence of the U.S. military establishment. It showed the future of military conflict, dominated by inexpensive (but electronically advanced) drones and missiles. And in turn, whoever is best at manufacturing and selling these drones and missiles will dominate the world. China has a huge advantage at this kind of domination

Surprises in the Backcountry

There is a nice kick to starting a post with only vague notions about the title, theme, or photos. I never begin with a blank slate. But there is enough uncertainty that nature becomes a problem to solve. And surprises happen. The first time I was at today's location, many years ago, I arrived with only vague notions about something special being here. I had to find it, and when I did, it took my breath away. How fortunate I was to experience this feeling. Does that opportunity even exist anymore? I am referring to the modern addiction to "researching" everything on the internet before you go there, so when you actually go, there are no surprises except perhaps the disappointments. When I see tourists driving up at high speed, stepping out of the car, taking a couple snapshots, and driving away in a hurry, I wonder why they didn't just stay home and look at postcards on the internet. Please don't tell me "There's no substitute for being there,&q