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Showing posts from 2020

Magic Moment Magicians

The other day my dog was patiently waiting for me to finish in the coffee shop. She amused herself by collecting one human scalp after another.

Her last victim was a girl of age 8. How that little girl glowed as she petted the dog! I couldn't take my eyes off of both of them. Although I will probably have a clear memory of this moment the rest of my life, it would have been great to photograph. But how? 

The glass window was in the way, and if I had gone outside, wouldn't the mere presence of a camera have provoked self-consciousness in the girl, and therefore ruined the moment?

People who are good at 'magic moment' photographs involving people and animals must have quite a bag of tricks. The only trick I can think of is to have a telephoto lens which lets you move away to a safe, non-intrusive distance. Obviously you must not talk to the subjects and try to coax them into a fake pose.

Actually the charm is not all in the subject. Much of it resides in the invisibility of …

Mis-use/Over-use of the Word 'Adventure'

If you spend any time surfing the travel blogo/vlogosphere on the internet, you will notice the frequent use of the word 'adventure.' Too frequent, I am afraid.

Do these people think they are the equivalent of, say, Ferdinand Magellan, as he probed for a route around the southern tip of South America?

The modern 'adventurer' travels in bourgeois comfort, luxury, and security, to a degree unimaginable to travelers of 50 years ago. They use the internet to spoonfeed 'how to' advice to newbies on the tiniest challenges of travel.

Soon the newbie has found a (linkbait oriented) website that tells them where to camp, how many solar panels they need, and how and where to poop. On and on it goes.

And yet, they keep using the word 'adventure' to describe what they are doing. 

Of course some of the blabbermouths on the internet are not doing it for linkbait income. They genuinely believe they are being nice guys in helping other people out. It never occurred to them …

Folk Wisdom Works

Most people have had a terrible experience like this several times in their lives: they decide to 'let the professional do it' and look forward to a relaxing experience, albeit an expensive one; things start slowing down to a crawl; the professionals don't even communicate with the customer so the delay seems open-ended.

The customer would be patient if they knew it was going go take a certain number more days. But they aren't being told that. The sheer indeterminacy of the project starts driving the customer crazy.

I had that happen to me lately in getting a hitch installed on my new tow vehicle, a van. It was humbling to realize that all of the books I've read in my life didn't seem to help at all. Theology, philosophy, history...what good is any of it! 

Instead, I fell back on old adages like, 'A watched pot never boils,' and 'If you want something done right, do it yourself.' So I kept looking for more ways to stay busy.

Here was a real problem …

Oh No! Another Recurring (Un-novel) Pleasure

I almost started with an apology to the reader for writing about a topic addressed a couple weeks ago, despite it being a wonderful topic: why don't some pleasures and enjoyments wear out? I concluded that it was their recurring nature, after a suitable rest, that ensured their long life.

And it happened again! The damp sky of the last couple days cracked open. What deserves the most praise? The fractured drama of a partly cloudy sky? Or cool, dry air? Or the crispness of renewed blue sky, set behind rugged mountains with a fresh smattering of snow? 

But let's be clear: it is not static prettiness that I am praising here. It is the disappearance, contrast, temporary loss, and glorious restoration that are being praised. So I come to the same conclusion as the earlier post, and what is so bad about that? Why should this blog be in the novelty-chasing business, like the rest of the electronic media?

Whether Weather is Always Banal

Is it banal to talk about the weather? In general, yes. But there are exceptions. Today I am experiencing slow, steady rain. It hasn't rained in two months. Truly, slow rain is one of the finest things that Mother Nature has to offer.

So why is there so little praise of it? The answer probably is that 'the medium is the message.' Slow rain does not photograph well. Nor is it especially entertaining to the ears. So you can't put it on a vlog or social media. Nor does rain make for a snazzy television commercial.

To hell with electronic media and its distortions. Slow rain is wonderful.

Finally, a New Tow Vehicle!

Is it understandable or reasonable that an older car buyer would like to get excited about what-might-be their last car, especially if they have never done so before?

There can be a romance to such an important part of life. Carried to extreme, it might seem silly.

After 15 years of fussing and fuming, of sturm und drang, I finally bought a new tow vehicle. It didn't work out like a romantic novel, by, say, Sir Walter Scott or Alexander Dumas.

Rather, it resembled a Jane Austen novel, in composite, non-literal form: a young woman, enthused about a dashing young rake, the best dancer at the balls, and always fashionably dressed. He drives a stylish and fast carriage, and rides a stallion. She's even heard whispers that he has killed a man in a duel.

Then she finds out he is an irresponsible, self-centered cad.

After a suitable amount of wailing, she transfers her attentions to a man who isn't too old, and doesn't look terrible, has good inheritance prospects, and is respons…

Open ID Switch, and Erratum

Blogger is telling me that it no longer lets a commenter use Open ID. So if that is what you were used to, go ahead and switch to Anonymous, just by checking the Anonymous box.

In a recent post I was a missionary for the sticker of RPO codes if you are considering GM vehicles. Now they tell me that starting in 2018 they no longer attach stickers to the usual places (passenger side door jamb or glove box for older vehicles) but instead use GM Global Connect. Either the dea ewlership can print the RPO codes from this, or maybe the individual can access GM Global Codes. 

Give your salesman the VIN number and make them email the RPO (build) codes to you.

Living Words, Dead Words

It has been a pleasant surprise to find out how much I like my little eReader (Kobo Libra H2O). Sometimes I get the best results by reading a couple screens-worth, and then looking away, and thinking about something else. Then I look down at the bottom of the screen, where it shows that only 5% of the book has been read.

My gawd, why are authors so wordy? Who needs all those words? Why don't they say something meaningful in a few sentences, and then 'shut up.' I still haven't decided whether I will even bother to read books in my 'next life.' (grin)

At such moments, my brain goes back to internet surfing. At least what you read there is shorter! And it seems more alive, somehow?

But is it? Why does the heavy (e-) lumber of a book seem so tedious, so much like dead stuff, but 'breaking news' on the internet seems alive? Most of the stuff on the internet is the same everyday; only the details change, as was true of newspapers and television. The information …

Feeling Proud of the One True Indispensable Nation

I don't write about politics too often, because the subject makes me and the reader sour or angry -- or depressed.

In fact, only twice have I felt joyous and triumphant. My own country had nothing to do with either of these events. They are British accomplishments.

In 2013 the British House of Commons declined to approve military action (the old-fashioned term is 'war') against Syria. Soon the Obama regime backed off of direct and forcible war against Syria. After all, the American War Machine needs to invoke the mythology of World War II and the hero worship of Churchill in order to pronounce the enemy-du-jour as the next Hitler.

In the last couple years of his regime, Obama then went on to make an international fool out of himself by describing America as the one true indispensable nation.

And now, for the second time in just a few years, we see who the one true indispensable country really is: Britain.

If you haven't watched a video of Farage's farewell speech to the…

Improving on Fuzzy Language

What a bizarre process it is to buy a car! The other day I was at a typical dealer's overcrowded lot. The cars were parked closer together than they are in a Portland OR grocery store parking lot.

The salesman was a big guy. He would open "my" van's door smack into the adjacent vehicle, actually dinging a newish vehicle. He didn't seem concerned. That really shows the high regard they have for their product, doesn't it?!

I suppose I should grateful for the search engines, such as AutoTrader, Car Gurus, Auto Tempest, etc. But they suck!

They over-describe unimportant things like the car having a clock, sun visor, intermittent windshield wipers, 16 air bags, etc. Oh, and it has "a CD player," too.

But as for the engine, they will just say, "V8". Apparently it doesn't matter that GM made three different V8 engines for the years in question.

The poor customer's time is wasted on jargon, abbreviations, the reckless use of pronouns, undefine…

Going "Under-Cover" at a Meeting of Van Tramps

Once this winter I camped near the van tramp bunch, with the idea that it could be thought-provoking. And it was. This occurred near Quartzsite.

Granted, it is easy to have a negative attitude towards this bunch. The vaunted "lifestyle" of theirs has become such a formula. 

But I tried to put that aside and see what makes them tick. As luck would have it, I checked out an excellent book at the local library by Jerome Blum, "In the Beginning." It sounds biblical, but actually the book is about the explosion of modernity in the 1840s. Some of what happened then is  relevant to today's van tramps.

It only takes a couple encounters with them before I concluded they were urban people. Actually you can decide that in a couple seconds. Just observe their dog-leash and clean-up fanaticism, their diet, music, tattoos, dreadlocks, etc.

So I smiled when reading Blum's book about the 1840s:
the revolutions [of 1848] were almost exclusively urban phenomena.The van tramps sho…

Keeping Things Fresh

Coming back from a sunset walk with my dog, I had the pleasure of looking at yet another crinkly chiaroscuro of desert mountains. I hope I never get tired of them. In fact it is quite remarkable how some pleasures never wear out. 

Why so? We get used to the idea that most things get tiresome and old very quickly. It is even worse in a media-saturated society, because the media is always chasing novelty. It is worse yet in a citified culture, where people live 'fast', and chase the latest fad as if it will raise their self-esteem.

Naturally I didn't have my camera along, but even if I had, the result would not have been a noteworthy postcard. The scene was ordinary, but I loved it.

As the opposite of hectic, citified, fad-and-novelty chasing, consider breathing. We never refuse to take a breath because it is old hat, repetitive, or un-novel.

Perhaps natural cycles of use and non-use are the explanation. Certain things will always give pleasure, but only after they are allowed t…

RV Vlogs and the Mundane

I must be turning into a sweet little old man. I deliberately drove through Quartzsite, AZ during the madness of its annual crowdfest in late January. Rather than scowl at everybody, it seemed entertaining to me. Anyway, I drove a loop around the town, and made a game out of it: did I know a clever way to get from A to B?

The trick to doing this is to renounce certain driving habits, such as left-hand turns. Also, there is a relatively uncrowded freeway interchange on the east side of town.

But there is a more fundamental trick: simply renounce excessive expectations about human beings, and your frustrations end. 

I used to make fun of the mundaneness and banality of RV travel blogs. But that hardly matters now. It seems that blogs (that you read) have become passé and have been superseded by vlogs, their YouTube equivalent. It might also be that travel bloggers have retired from traveling due to age.

Have you watched some of these vlogs? I put one on pause and went to the thesaurus to …

Including Sounds, and not just Photos, in Blog Posts

There is a great deal of supposedly practical information out there, for RV camping. But I think it misses the point. The lifestyle is not greatly challenged by physical or material difficulties. Most of the struggle is psychological. It is largely concerned with reconstructing habits.

This struggle comes to the foreground in the winter, when too many hours of darkness chase you into your tiny den. I have tried to use those hours beneficially by reading, but an answer like that can be spit out too easily. 

Reading has never seemed like a very natural activity. Too many hours of it can lead to grimness and sullenness. That is why I posted recently about my efforts to change my reading (and other habits of the evening) into something more light-hearted.

It would help if writers used a multi-media approach, instead of relying purely on the written word. So, let's praise photographs and other images that tell a story, or represent a visualization of the ideas being posted about. 

What is …

"Life Is a Joke That's Just Begun"

Change is happening in the world, and it ain't all bad. For instance you see more bicycles and solar panels near Quartzsite, AZ.

And there is a new bakery in town, with a decent parking lot. Unaccustomed as I am to squandering time and money at such places, I did make an exception today. Here is what I saw: 

That's a sleepy three-month-old miniature Australian shepherd in there. Let's hope the owner was not exploiting her as a chick-magnet. I let the little darlin' chew on my finger with those sharp puppy teeth. My goodness, was her fur soft! He says that the dog didn't need a leash to hold her in the basket. And I believe it.

It is a good sign that you see eBikes popping up more and more, and hopefully coming down in price.

I refuse to feel embarrassed by my increasing tendency to gush over pretty little girls, young women, or puppies. It is a nice trend in old age. To honor the occasion I will pop on my new headphones and listen to Gilbert & Sullivan's "…

Justifying Do-It-Yourself Satisfaction

After finishing a do-it-yourself (DIY) project yesterday, I felt a perverse desire to actually count up the number of tools it took to finish this project. It would be nice to put a number on it, but I have never actually done that.

No matter how trivial the project, it seems to require half the tools I own.  I had just spent half a day building a holder for my Kobo eBook reader, in order to read in bed without tiring the arms. They sell tablet holders on Amazon for $20. So I pay myself $5 per hour, apparently. Just look at my mighty creation.

It looks like something done by a grade schooler: a furring strip, a few bolts and screws, an eye-hook, hinge, and of course, a bungee cord. But it was all repurposed stuff! Not a single 40 mile round trip to town was needed.

It is fun to laugh at the DIY syndrome. There are blogs and vlogs on the internet that have virtually made a moral sickness out of it. I least I won't imply that you are saving yourself a vast fortune, which is what th…

Talkers Who Talk Like a Book

I already confessed my surrender to Verizon. I was being de-prioritized so often on my cheaper pre-pay plan that the internet was becoming useless. So I went over to a more expensive unlimited plan in order to escape this problem.

As a result I am watching more videos, sometimes from news sites. I am shocked at how verbose they are!

The people who make these videos would be failures in the movie industry. They haven't even learned that videos should convey information visually, rather than through talking.

And if you must yak away, don't use written-English. Don't they understand that written-English is not the same as spoken-English?

Use short declarative sentences. Avoid commas and parenthetical clauses. Clauses might be OK as a prefix or suffix to the main clause, but they must not be in the middle of the sentence.

Some writer, who has read too many books, must be putting written-English on the teleprompter, and then the talking head must be reading it. Nobody talks like the…

An Opportunity in the Mideast

Let's indulge in a little wishful thinking, shall we? The killing and bombing taking place between Washington, DC and Iran does offer up a great opportunity to the Trump administration. He probably won't cash in on this opportunity, but he could.

For the president to look tough during an election year, killing Soleimani is drastically more important than killing bin Laden by the Obama administration. Bin Laden was essentially a lame duck leader when he was killed. Soleimani was at the top of his game.

Therefore Trump has secured his bragging rights. He could claim this represents closure or 'mission actually accomplished'. 

There is another argument for 'mission accomplished': the USA was supposedly trying to bring self-government to the region. And now the parliament of Iraq has ordered the USA to leave. Shouldn't this be seen as a demonstration of a certain amount of success in bringing democratic self-government to Iraq?

Therefore Trump could withdraw troops…

The World Goes On, Without Almighty Me

It wasn't a rare experience I had the other day, so why write about it? Perhaps it was the element of surprise and the intensity.

Believe it or not I was at the gasoline pump -- hardly the place you expect to have a 'religious experience.' I walked up to the 'office' to pre-pay for the gasoline. A young Mexican-American woman looked down at me, smiled, and I told her what I wanted.

There was something about her youthful smile that almost made me fall over. (And yes, she was pretty.) I thought, "Well, the world will have to go on without me in a couple years. That's not so bad, I guess. As long as it keeps producing young lovelies like her. Let her have my place."

And I got my gasoline and drove off, completely fortified for a new day. 

2020 Is Impossible to Predict

I have never played the game of making predictions for the upcoming year, at least, not seriously. 

But I suppose the big issue for 2020, other than the impeachment fracas, is whether Trump and the Israeli Lobby will finally succeed at getting a real war with Iran. 

That is why I have no faith in predictions. How can you predict whether Americans "rally 'round the President" and he gets reelected, or whether they have become indifferent or even cynical about the latest war-cheerleading? 

How many times in a row can the War Party trick the American public? It is not a crazy answer to say, "An unlimited number of times," as long as the television news feeds people a steady diet of the right sort.

Another issue that is hard to predict is whether Middle Eastern people decide that a presidential election year is a good time to take American hostages of some kind. It certainly worked well 40 years ago. Usually a tactic doesn't work so well the second time it is trie…