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Showing posts from November, 2019

Storm at Sea, in the Arizona Desert

I was furious with myself. Why hadn't I pointed the bow of my trailer into the storm! The wind was shifting to the "sou'west" in a few minutes, when heavy rain was supposed to hit. And then there was a lull in the rain, so I ran outside and got hitched up as quickly as possible. Now I can turn a circle on flat desert gravel, in order to get the perfect angle.  I have to smile at this. I am reading Abulafia's "The Boundless Sea", about the history of oceans, or rather, the history of man's relationship with those oceans. And here I am: bracing for a storm at sea -- in the Arizona desert. On one level it is enjoyable and satisfying to make a connection like this. But it is also humbling to think how timid and wimpy a modern man can be, compared to our ancestors just a couple generations ago. My own grandfather worked as a cabin boy in the Baltic Sea when he was 14. My father was on an LST in the south Pacific during World War II when he was eight

Most Snowbird Boondockers Would Be Happier Elsewhere

Lately I have had a chance to observe a group of people I am not used to. I am not even sure what to call them, but they seem to be a group of boondockers who spun off of the Van Build group in Parker, AZ. I am here to help a friend finish his van. It has been interesting to watch these people and wonder why they are "dispersed" camping on top of each other? Why do they seem to enjoy morning and late afternoon group meetings? Why don't they get going in the morning before the wind starts blowing? Why are they so uninterested in outdoor recreation? Why is music noise unregulated but dogs are strictly regulated? They seem to think desert camping is the moral equivalent of spring break at Ft. Lauderdale, for college kiddies. Perhaps we don't need to think that hard. They are here because of the price and the price alone. I hope they get an opportunity someday to do something that fits their interests better. If they could afford it, they would be happier in a lar

Whatever Happened to the Teacup Purse Dog?

I was checking out of the hardware store the other day, when  I noticed something rather strange on the counter. Apparently it normally conveyed itself in the woman customer's purse. But the woman thought it needed to relax or something, so she let it walk around on the counter. The woman told me I could pet the beast if I wanted to. I ungraciously declined. Then the hardware store checkout lady started telling me about bearded dragons, about how friendly they are, and how they cuddle on your pillow at night with you. I remained unconvinced. But I admit that the beastie was rather personable, as dragons go. Still, I hope this isn't the latest and greatest fad. I say, bring back the teacup poodle or Yorkie.

Something Actually Improved With an "Upgrade"

Last post I was wondering how I could be a contented Kindle-for-PC user on my Windows 7 laptop for years and years; then I foolishly "upgraded" to Windows 10, only to find that the Kindle-for-PC program does not work reliably. But I am not surprised. Think how many years we have been bothered by "updates" and "upgrades."  Then we find that little if anything has actually gotten better. It's as if updates and upgrades are nothing but a phony "Full Employment Act" passed by Congress to guarantee jobs for software geeks. And yet, there are exceptions. It took me a month to learn that Android 9 offers an amazing improvement over Android 7: Android 9 allows you format the micro-SD chip as simulated "on board" (internal) memory, so you needn't run out of memory ever again, on your phone.  From What an improvement this is! And why didn't I learn this from the tech reviews by vaunted experts? On A

Goodbye Amazon Kindle, Hello Kobo

This practical post will probably only interest readers who have had trouble reading eBooks on their Window 10 machines. I was a satisfied eBook reader for years on my Windows 7 laptop. I downloaded a program, "Kindle for PC," onto my laptop, which enabled me to read eBooks from Amazon as well as from other sources, if I downloaded the eBooks with the Kindle format. (Thus I spared myself the need for a separate Kindle gadget. One-application gadgets just bring too many hassles into my life.) But the Kindle-for-PC program would not work right (*) on my new Windows 10 machine. (And yes, I was careful to opt out of S mode, since it is meant to enslave the consumer to the Microsoft Store.)  I would have been willing to download the Kindle-for-PC program from the Microsoft Store if it had been available, but it wasn't. I suspect a pissing contest between these two tech giants. Each wants to be at the "top of the food chain" and in a position to dictate

Why Do Snowbirds Still Use Generators?

There really is no need for generators when dry camping/boondocking in the Southwestern desert in the winter. And yet, they show up every winter, and lower the quality of the camping experience. Why should this be so?  If a camping neighbor shows up with a generator that looks like this, you might as well hitch up and leave. It is a reasonable hope that you'll get luckier in another campsite. 1. Do the "practical" bloggers and vloggers make solar panels sound so complex that they scare people off? What is so complex about buying a self-contained "solar suitcase," setting it out on the ground to track the sun, and attaching the alligator clips to your battery clips? 2. Even easier yet, most people could upgrade their converter/charger so that 45 minutes per day of generator usage would be good enough; they wouldn't need to run it for hours.  If their RV has a Progressive Dynamics converter/charger, they need only buy a "Charge Wizard" mo


The gods are playing tricks on me for adding a second pair of stabilizers to my trailer, so that I could tolerate more of the blue northers Utah was getting in October. The result of course was two weeks of freakishly calm weather here, near Lake Mead. I shake my head in disbelief, but 'not getting my money's worth' is a small price to pay for weather more perfect than I expect to ever see again, at this location. So I celebrate the occasion by taking my dog out to the edge of the canyon system at sunset every night. What do you do when you've seen it all before? Remember the progression of chapters in Thoreau's "Walden:" at some point he moved on to night-time experiences and sounds near the pond. Tonight I was walking back from the overlook when I heard the honking of an airborne platoon of geese, flying over the canyon system. That brought a poignant sigh to my face because it seemed to be the perfect sound at this place and time: the autumn migra

The Overton Window

I was having breakfast at McDonald's. It was only 20 minutes after sunrise, but already, the sun was so bright that it was hard to read the smartphone. I had been doing a halfway decent job of ignoring the horrible sun.   Suddenly there was the quiet -- but affirmative -- hum of an electrical motor. I was shocked to see solar screens roll down the large expanse of tinted windows that ring the McDonald's. Down the solar screens came, while my jaw was dropped halfway to the floor. When the motors had accomplished their job, they shut down. It was like heaven behind those screens. If there is anything in the Southwest that epitomizes kindliness and mercy, it is a solar screen. Suddenly I was a disciple of Dr. Pangloss (aka, Leibniz) and believed we lived in the best of all possible worlds, and that a universal and benevolent Providence bestowed Divine Grace on each creature in the universe. Perhaps the reader has seen motorized solar screens before. But it was the first

Which Veterans Deserve the Most Honor?

This year, let's skip my typical oration for Veteran's Day, and instead, ask which (contemporary) veterans deserve to be honored the most. There are so many to choose from. Syrian and Yemeni veterans certainly belong at the top of the list. But I suppose Afghan veterans are the greatest heroes of all. They defeated the Soviet Empire, and have fought the American Empire to a standstill for 18 years. If anybody deserves to be honored, it is a fighter who takes on a foreign invader who has more expensive weapons and all the other advantages. How does an English-reader really appreciate what the heroes of Afghanistan have gone through? I am aware of a book by Eric Margolis about the interminable wars in that part of the world. But it would probably be nice to find something more contemporary. I suppose it is possible to come up with something, after a lot of digging on the internet, and maybe some unsuccessful purchases of eBooks.  If any reader has a suggestion, let me kn

Why No Emoji for "Bullshit?"

Some people do get enjoyment from visiting Native American petroglyphs, but I am not one of them. You could say the fault is mine. But it would help if the whole subject was stripped of its sanctimoniousness, Noble Savage romanticism, and the pop-cultural baggage of the 1960s. Then I could look on it the way you look on other ancient writing systems. Wikipedia had a good article on the history of writing systems. By the way, don't be scared off of the topic because you confuse it with linguistics. Linguistics articles are horrendously technical and impossible to understand. It is easy to believe it was a huge step upward for civilization when written symbols went from picturing tangible things or numbers to conveying ideas or the sounds of a spoken language (which can then convey ideas.) So the topic is inherently interesting, given a chance. But rather than look backward, perhaps we should consider the significance of a new contemporary writing system, the emoji. My new

Children of a Lesser God

I come through southern Nevada every autumn, it seems, and pay homage to a couple eccentricities of the land. There is a pseudo-cliff dwelling that I drove to, at the beginning of my RVing career. It is still here. The dry wash is loose gravel, so it is surprising that I made it with the van and trailer, way back then. But today I used the mountain bike. Back then, my "discovery" was unplanned, so I fluttered my eyelashes over it, and honored it by building a fire, and watching the shadows of my hand walk around the ceiling of the "cliff dwelling." By then, I had decided that cliff dwellings of the Native Americans bored me to death, when they were made into a tourist trap. That was part of the reason why is was so surprising to enjoy "my" cliff dwelling. How lucky I was to experience something like this hole in the cliff! I was in the last generation to be able to do so. Today a newbie RVer would expect to be told exactly where it is and everything

The Wolf-Light Comes

There must be people who learn new habits (and unlearn old habits) easily, but I'm not one of them. Since nights are longer now, it would be helpful to get in the habit of wearing a headlamp when leaving the camper at night. In darkness, it isn't even possible to lock the door when leaving the camper. At dawn recently, I was doing the same stupid thing again: fumbling with the keys to feel for the shape of the door key. I simply couldn't feel it. I was furious.  Perhaps it was the anger that made me do it, but I held the keys up towards the dawn sky, and much to my surprise, the silhouettes were clear. Why hadn't I thought of this trick, before? Strange. It was almost "pre-dawn." A poet would probably call it the time of day when dawn was still just a hope or promise. And yet there was enough light to see the shape of the keys. What a great way to start the day, eh?: with an "authentic natural experience." I use the term generously  -- perha