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Showing posts from 2020

Two-Culture Gap in a Bozeman Parking Lot

Google Maps guided me in to Sportsman's Warehouse in Bozeman, MT. I was surprised to be met outside the store by a virus-mullah insisting that I wear a virus-burka before entering the store.

They were polite about it, and offered me a free mask. Actually it was funny. Years ago I was job-interviewing in the Northeast. At a restaurant that night, the snooty waiter said, "We have a tie and jacket available for you." I was confused and offended. I had never been to a place that required a uniform to eat.

Anyway, I went into the store, only to find out that it was an REI instead of the Sportsman's Warehouse I was looking for. It turns out that they were right next to each other. But of course, they had opposite policies regarding the virus-burka. 

The REI had warning sign after warning sign inside the store, micro-managing every aspect of standing, walking, scratching your ass, etc. 

But they seemed to have plenty of customers. This was surprising at first, until I realized …

Still Fluttering the Eyelashes, After All These Years

When I first started seeing the color green, it was like a long disease was finally ending. But it was better than mere green; it was rolling hills of green grass, with the mountains of Yellowstone in the background.

I even found a place to camp alone. It would have been a great place for a mountain bike ride except for the sign warning about grizzly bears. And I forgot to buy a can of bear spray!

But I was delighted that the right kind of scenery can still have this effect on me, after all these years. There is nothing special about my central nervous system or brain. So why has this success happened?

The likely explanation is that I have never allowed travel to collapse into a one-dimensional worship of pretty scenery. I have let it rest, from time to time. And then the appetite comes back. 

For instance, green grass represents something of fundamental importance: humans and other animals actually need nature to live, to eat, and for shelter. We can't get necessities from red arches…

Out of Gas at South Pass

I am traveling north, and trying to use a different route than in the old days. What a relief it was to finally get out of Colorado, with its high speed drivers and tourist hordes! But I didn't let them bully me.

Wyoming: so much of it is rather ugly and barren. And the wind blows worse than in New Mexico!

There are historical markers around the North Platte River that got me thinking about South Pass, WY, where the old Emigrant (wagon) Trails crossed the continental divide, just south of the Wind River mountain range in Wyoming. 

It's funny how many classic television westerns I have watched as sleeping pills, at night. But have they ever mentioned South Pass and the Sweetwater River? Just think of all those miles across the Great Plains, with a continuous track of water right to the continental divide at South Pass! What a piece of geographical luck!

I camped at South Pass. The gasoline gauge was getting low. There I was, experiencing a tiny bit of the supply-problem that the wa…

Sharing a Campfire with Jack London

It doesn't seem like such a great thing to get out of bed at 3:30, but oddly, it was. I had been listening/sleeping to an audiobook of Jack London's "White Fang," narrated with great skill by Seth Thompson. His voice and London's story had lulled me into a state of unusual satisfaction.

It was like sharing a campfire with friends, when the inane chatter of the early evening has worn down to the subdued voices of a later fire; quiet, dignified voices that imitate the steady breathing of a bed of orange coals. Here was a satisfaction that could never come from the written word. 

Maybe it was anticipation of my upcoming trip that made me get up at 3:30. There is only one more day of waiting! It has always been like this, before a trip. Usually this mood hits at the end of summer, while anticipating a new autumn. But this time, I anticipated going north for the first time in years, thanks to a new tow vehicle.

It won't exactly be a new experience to me. But there wi…

Celebrating Your 'Freedoms' this Fourth?

My neighbor in the campground had something that interested me: she had an Elizabethan collar around her dog's head. The dog had had some surgery done around its eye recently, and the collar kept the dog from pawing at the eye. The woman said the dog was not fighting the collar. It was working quite well.

Perhaps there is a lesson here for governors and the CDC. It is easy to visualize Americans submitting to this:

Oh, there might be a few Deplorables in rural areas who object to the collar -- for awhile, anyway. But they will have to submit eventually. 

It takes no effort to predict the cultural stereotype that will submit quickest and most easily to the collar.

In the mean time, I hope the reader is enjoying watching fireworks on their yoob toob or Boob Toob tonight, and takes some time out to thank The Troops for protecting our Freedoms. 


Rather than call it an "Elizabethan collar," I like to think of the "Collar of Obedience&…

The Tangled Mess of Written and Spoken Words

Recently I was gushing with enthusiasm over the world of podcasts and audiobooks. This was a new discovery to me -- everybody else discovered them in 2005.

But you would think that, by this time in life, I would stay guarded in my expectations about any new thing or person. Perhaps I was overenthusiastic over podcasts and audiobooks.

Discovering "History of the English Language" podcast (Kevin Stroud) might have been beginner's luck. Since then I have struck out several times when looking for other "sound media" products.

It is easy to get trapped between the world of written language and the world of spoken language. The gap is pretty big. 

I tried the "History of Spain" podcast, but the guy had such a thick accent that it took too much concentration for night-time listening. His content is excellent; so why didn't they have him write the sound-script for someone else to vocalize?

Sometimes I just can't stand the narrator's voice. Ideally he s…

June is the Cruelest Month

Who was it that called April the cruelest month? There was a time in life when I appreciated the wisdom of that old saying. But after a few years in the Southwest, April loses the prize.

It's true, that April features some of the best horizontal gravity of the year.

Sometimes it is one of the ubiquitous brown Carsonite signs that succumbs to horizontal gravity, despite their remarkable durability:

And don't think this carsonite site was bent by a truck. A video would have shown it vibrating in the wind, like a tuning fork. The point of these two pictures is to show you that I am not a crybaby about what I call 'cruel.'

June, not April, is the cruelest month; I am not referring to arid heat and scalding sunlight so much as to the cruelty of being tantalized with a bit of cloud cover in late June. 

It seems like a miracle to look up into the deathly rictus of the sky [1] and see anything other than a monotonous, life-draining, blue-white glare. 

And then you make the crucial m…

A Patreon Experiment

It pays -- literally -- to be a bit skeptical about internet blogs that live on clickbait income, especially when they review products. But a certain amount of moderation is needed when criticizing the clickbait syndrome; after all, don't content-providers deserve to be paid, somehow?

An alternative to clickbait websites is needed, so I have finally put my 'money where my mouth is,' by signing up at a couple Patreon websites. Yes, that means that I actually pay to listen to or read their stuff. So far, my subscriptions are Kevin Stroud (and his history of the English language podcasts), and Dmitry Orlov.

It took a heroic effort to overcome my aversion to monthly subscriptions, but that is what Patreon wants you to do.

A cynic might look at the subscription business model and think that they are hoping you lose track of what sites you are committed to; meanwhile the money keeps coming out of your credit card, automatically. The whole thing is like drilling little holes in the…

Time to Go North Again?

After restricting my circle of travel to the American Southwest for many years now, I should be excited about returning to the northern states. After all, I have a new tow vehicle now, and am on Medicare -- with nationwide coverage -- rather than an ACA plan that was tied to one state. And on top of all that, gasoline prices are low. So I am free to truly experience the 'freedom of the open road' again.

But wait a minute. Won't I just rediscover the reasons that made me a Southwesterner in the first place? North American geography has an unfortunate quirk: as you go north from the Colorado Plateau, the average altitude (for camping) declines. Therefore a thousand miles of northering doesn't cool you off, at all -- except during the shoulder seasons.

Northering also separates you from ponderosa forests, and gets you into spruce, lodgepole pine, and other dismal and thick boreal forests.

And the mosquitoes are terrible in the northern states!

If you stay five miles from the …

Good News for First-Time Dog Owners

First time dog-owners should not be overly fearful when they discover that their middle-aged or older best-friend has a noticeable lump under the skin. It is probably not cancer.

The lump is a lipoma, a tumor of fatty tissue. Most can be surgically removed, costing less than $500.

But it takes awhile to learn how to react to these lumps. My first dog sprouted a half of dozen of these, but they never got bigger than the end of my thumb. I eventually decided to stop having them surgically removed. 

My second (and current) dog gets fewer lipomas, but they can get big. With hindsight it would have been better to go in quickly to the vet, when a new lipoma becomes noticeable. That keeps the surgery simpler, and the dog recovers faster.

A traveler has the opportunity to go to rural veterinarians. Woe unto you if you go to a vet near a mountain boutique town or some trendy area full of affluent retirees.

My girl is recovering after having this fist-sized lipoma removed, yesterday, by a veterinari…

CHAZ in Seattle Compared to Secession 1861

What exactly is a self-declared "autonomous" zone, such as the one in Seattle? Could the case be made that it is a type of illegal secession?

America does have a track record of secession. The first war of secession brought a military response from George III's government. But since the secessionists won the war, its memory is covered in glory.

The second war, instigated by New Englanders at the time of 1812, never quite reached critical mass. So it stayed non-violent.

The third secession crisis occurred in the American South in 1861. We all know Father Abraham's trick of resupplying federal property at Fort Sumter in order to goad the Confederate hotheads into firing the first shot. The final result was the destruction of the secessionist's society.

Could history repeat itself? What if there is some federal property -- even an office building -- either in CHAZ or in an imitator somewhere in the archipelago of urban hellholes across the American landscape. Couldn'…

Morning Traffic Jam, Western-Style

I drove to town the other day to do some errands, and was surprised to find myself in the middle of a cattle drive on the gravel road. I kept driving -- 5 mph -- right through the herd. None of the cowboys yelled at me.

At the end of the road, they came up to a paved highway, with fast car traffic. So they turned right, just before the paved highway. Except for two of them. I actually used my van to herd those two cows into a right turn. The cowboy gave me a friendly wave.

Actually, the cowboys looked pretty bored. They were also over-dressed -- as Colorado cowboys usually are -- which made me roll my eyes. But their Australian shepherds were having a great time!, and doing most of the work.

On the return trip from town, the cattle drive was pretty much over, except for one lone calf who had managed to get stranded out in the middle of a field. How did he even get there? There was a barbed wire fence in the way.

The dogs were furious with the calf, but the barbed wire fence was unusually…

It's Only a Dry Heat...

How many snowbirds have praised the American Southwest when they are there during December, January, and February? They aren't wrong.

But then they go and ruin it by extrapolating a short, seasonal stay to a 12-month-a-year residence. They simply underestimate how awful it is except during those three winter months. Their real estate agent tells them, "But it's only a dry heat." And they believe it.

No matter. Why waste my experience and sagacity on them. Let them learn the hard way. 

It is only 75 F in the shade today -- but of course there ain't no shade. And look what happened to my camper's air mattress when I took it out to the picnic table to clean it.

The poor thing had herniated in only 15 minutes of "only a dry heat." I wondered how many more minutes would have been necessary for it to pop like a balloon.

But over the years I have learned to milk the act (of misery in June), just to experience the bliss of the monsoon season in July and August. …

Of Mice and Rattlesnakes

I have been lucky in my campground host job at having good people to work with, in particular a seasonal employee. The funny thing is that they claim they have never seen a rattlesnake here, in the campground. So you could say that they are a "rattlesnake-denier."

Earlier this week, that person got close enough to get rattled at.

On about the same day, a local, who recreates here a couple times per week, told me that he has never seen a rattler here, in 17 years. Another "denier." Three minutes after our conversation ended,  I encountered a smooshed, dead, baby rattler on the road. Wikipedia says they are born poisonous. 


I have never been a great admirer of the prose styling done by government agencies. Our bulletin board says that "Rattlesnakes are important members of the natural community, since they help control rodent populations."

Do they? If that were really true, I would semi-domesticate a couple of them, water th…

A Better Way to Beat the Enemy

It took a little while to see the significance of what I was looking at: my rayon shirt had been hung up to dry, after hand-washing it in a bucket. Rayon doesn't make for strong garments, so it seemed like hand-washing was a good idea.

Then I hung it up to air-dry. I can't remember if the hellish Southwestern wind was blowing, but the hellish sun was certainly out, with full force. In a few minutes the shirt felt cool.

What if I had put it on? It might have been uncomfortably cool!  Imagine timeless enemy, the sun, becomes the instrument of its own destruction. The more violent the sun, the cooler the shirt.

If only I could imagine all problems or "enemies" in that manner. That is, instead of taking on an "enemy" with a direct frontal attack, it would be so much better to sneak around, with a flank attack, or better yet, maneuver the enemy into being his own worst enemy.

The Genius of Political Cartoonists

In the past I have admired the talents of political cartoonists. I came across another example the other day. It was talking about the riots, of course.

It is the cartoon on the right that really stopped me dead in my tracks. Where is the cartoonist's name? How are they even getting paid? How can I fairly credit that name?

I was tempted to verbalize the cartoon, but that just robs it of its magic. It is better to let people see it, and let their imaginations add the 'caption'.

Don't Let The Riots Go To Waste

You'd think I would have given up on trying to get a lucrative salary as a political consultant, by now. 

But my advice to the president is to avoid getting too involved with the violence in the cities. They are "blue counties," after all. What does he have to gain?

It is reasonable to say that Democratic mayors know their cities better than somebody in Washington DC, and therefore, know what steps should be taken.

If the suppression of the riots is too soft, let the Democratic mayor take the blame. If a cop or national guardsman gets trigger-happy, let the Democratic mayor be blamed.

It seems reasonable to me that the president should make extra resources available to the mayors. One way to do that is to begin a withdrawal of US troops from the Mideast and all the other places in the world where they are cruelly meddling in other people's affairs. Let them add to the security of Americans, in America, for a change. Station them around the cities where they might do some…

Mother Nature's Miracle

And no, I am not talking about pretty tourist scenery.

The miracles of nature that first come to mind are things like "raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens." That might be a little sappy for my tastes. I prefer rowdy puppies, or young women in the bloom of youth.

But there are other miracles that take a moment of thought. What if you lived in this valley a few generations ago. A local farmer told me the water table was 300 feet down. Wikipedia says that the gravel detritus (deposited from the nearby mountains) is a mile deep.

Imagine digging a well by hand, three generations ago, and hitting water after a reasonable amount of effort and suffering. What a miracle that would be!

Ahh, but the long-suffering reader knows what my favorite miracle is:

This cloud is a month early. There should be nothing but blue-white glare until the monsoons start in July. Hot, scalding, monotonous, and enervating.

Eating at a Restaurant!

Normally I chew myself out a little for eating at restaurants. It is expensive, the food isn't that great, and the music is intrusive and ugly.

But today it felt great, after two months of Lockdown. Near here, a restaurant/store reopened in a small rural town. I was their first customer, so I left a big tip to get them started right. It seemed like the whole family was working there. Nobody was wearing their fear mask.

It just felt so normal. There certainly is something to be said for taking things away from yourself, temporarily, just so you start to appreciate it again.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Blogger sucks. It's time to look for an alternative. Went back to Blogger Classic so I could upload photos.

I was overwhelmed with campers this past holiday. Am I already becoming nostalgic for the lockdown? The situation was exacerbated by competing campgrounds being closed: we are the only game in town.

Everybody was acting healthy and active. Very few people were wearing the fear mask.

What would it take for public spaces in Colorado to become truly uncrowded?: more than a Covid lockdown, I suspect. It would probably take a nuclear war.

Even More Perfect, This Time Around

It is both remarkable and wonderful that powerful experiences can recur, and yet remain powerful, or even, take a step closer to perfection. One of these happened recently. I was working outdoors on a warm, windy, arid day in the American Southwest.
I wish I had looked at the thermometer. It was probably only 70 F or so. But the sun was oppressive. Maybe I hadn't drunk enough water on the mountain bike ride, earlier in the morning.
Just then, a cloud blocked the sun. The temperature seemed to fall by 15 F -- instantly. I wanted to fall down, upon my knees, and pray to almighty Somebody-or-Other for their Divine Mercy. OK, so I am milking the act a little here -- but not by very much!

A modern secularist, under the right conditions, has the same instincts that their ancestors had, centuries, or even millennia, ago. If they think they are vastly superior to their ancestors, it is only because of their soft, comfortable, secure, and insipid existence. They need only experience some Nobl…

Bringing Back a Classic Slogan

Youngsters haven't seen as many classic TV ads as I have. I am genuinely fond of a couple of them. My all-time favorite was the old boy bringing in his Model T car for a free muffler at Midas Muffler.

Likewise they haven't heard as many political slogans, although it is harder to think of ones that I was ever fond of.
But one of the better political slogans was the one feminists came up with, circa 1970: "Get Your Laws Off Our Bodies!" It was a good slogan because it brought people over to their side who perhaps didn't like feminists, in general.

Do you think the slogan is relevant today, during the virus panic? I think it is. It might need to be improved for accuracy. How much of the lockdown is about "laws" at all? -- as opposed to mere decrees from the Never Elected? Of course, the slogan is unlikely to be used by today's Progressives. After all, the slogan is essentially Libertarian, whereas the modern Progressive is firmly in the authoritarian cam…

A Mostly Unfacetious Plan to Throttle-Up

After presidential elections a remarkable map of the USA shows up here and there: a map of blue counties and red counties. The map is impressive! It seems like 90% of America is red, on a square mile basis (especially if you ignore a couple indian reservations or the southern border). But those blue counties have enormous populations.

Doesn't this suggest a way to stifle the virus, achieve political comity, and throttle-up the economy? I propose keeping the blue counties in lockdown -- permanently, if they want. That should have a real medical benefit: dense populations are breeding grounds for pestilence and disease.
In contrast, the red counties can start to loosen up, faster.

It should create an era of good feelings, too. Blue counties seem to favor lockdown -- on EVERYBODY. Let them stop being so generous, and keep the lockdown for themselves. They could think of it as "enlightened self-interest."

Then they could get rid of their HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes on th…

Experience Wins Over Thinking and Reading

Real world experience is so important, compared to reading one more book. For instance I have read a lot about the Great War, World War I. But at some point I think, "I don't even feel sorry for you guys. Why didn't you rebel against your leaders, rather than be slaughtered every day?"
In fairness, French soldiers did rebel in 1918. They would no longer 'go over the top'  when the officer blew the whistle -- they would no longer participate in suicidal and useless charges. But they held their ground defensively. They weren't deserters.
Still, how could the vast majority of citizens and soldiers throw their lives away, based on the commands of leaders who were murderous fools?
That is one good thing in experiencing the virus lockdown. I see a nation of sheep, throwing its livelihoods away, based on nothing but propaganda from the boob toob. Actually, we should stop comparing Americans to sheep, and change it to earthworms, instead.

Now I realize how complacent…

Appreciating the Oral Tradition

If only I had pushed in the direction of podcasts and audio books years ago, instead of waiting to discover this world during the lockdown! For years I have complained that reading books was a miserable activity during winter evenings, especially when camping. Even the most hard-core optimist would admit that reading is tedious. I would rather just blurt out that reading is unsociable, glum, and lifeless. It is an unnatural and annoying activity.
Furthermore, we sometimes forget how recently the printed word has come to dominate the Oral Tradition. I envy my grandparents' generation for being able to listen to the Golden Age of Radio on a winter evening on their farms. Go back even further than that and you have the world of theatre, live and on stage, where the playwright's words are 80% of the show. My generation caught the end of the (tawdry) newspaper era, but saw the hegemony of movies (aka, eye candy) and television (aka, chewing gum for the eyes.)
It would be interesting …

What is the Ultimate Outdoors Shirt?

There are more important things to worry about right now, but I have always wanted the ultimate shirt for mountain biking in the summer time. The recreational industry has oversold the benefits of texturized polyester, supplex nylon, and polypropylene. The only thing these modern high-tech fabrics are good for is not absorbing water. That is important if you are climbing a 14'er in Colorado and you get caught in a squall or hailstorm. (Well OK, they are durable. But they are unforgivably hot and sweaty.)
But I am mountain biking in warm summer weather, with low humidity. The cliche about cotton 'absorbing' sweat or water is irrelevant. So what if the fabric absorbs sweat? It evaporates quickly and cools the fabric. The only problem with thin 100% cotton is durability.
Rayon is even cooler than cotton, but weaker yet; especially near the button holes. I have yet to find a long-sleeve rayon shirt, and I don't want flamboyant tropical colors. I am a Southwesterner, not a r…

More Warmongering After Crisis?

Many people might be wondering if the modern crisis will make important improvements to American policies. For instance, will Americans decide that spending a trillion dollars per year on intelligence agencies, foreign wars, and toys for the Pentagon is something we just can't afford any more, and that we need to reallocate that money elsewhere.

I used to think so. But maybe that is just wishful thinking.

I am rereading Madame de Stael's "Considerations of the Principal Events of the French Revolution." She was well-placed to know some of the famous actors of the Revolution, and eye-witnessed important events in it. And a woman author has a tendency to emphasize different things than the usual male historian.

She quotes an English politician who criticized Bonaparte:
He must promise to make them the masters of the world, that they may consent to be his slaves.
Was that true with the mob in ancient Rome? Their lives were miserable and hopeless most of the time, except whe…

Schadenfreude over the Tourism Industry

Yes, I am ashamed of myself. But I'm not the only scoundrel who is wallowing in schadenfreude over the demise of the tourism industry.

Really folks, it was getting ridiculous before the virus came along and saved us.
All those people living in their vans. All those clowns showing up in campgrounds at 11:30 p.m., and then slamming car doors for the next hour or two.Every other vehicle in America having four wheel drive, and the ability to pollute the backcountry with their presence.Gigantic house-sized fifth-wheel trailers with open frame generators from China.Reservations, rules, fees.Loud music playing half the night.Pickup trucks that require step-ladders to enter. Side-by-side UTVs everywhere, blasting by at high speed.Lines outside restaurants with boutique food at high prices. McMansions popping up on every square foot of private land that can be said to have a "view." In other words, every place was getting as crowded as Colorado. 

And now it is in shambles! How wond…

Hope in Downtown's Graveyard

My dog and I were feeling like heroes. We were the only customers in an outdoor seating area outside a bakery downtown, on a gorgeous spring day. Up and down the sidewalks, there probably weren't more than four people walking around. What a graveyard.

But considering the demographics, I'll bet most people were happy to see themselves and their neighbors commit economic suicide, if there was a chance that it might hurt Trump. 

Something surprising went my: it was a ten-year-old boy, whizzing by on a bicycle. He didn't have a helmet on, and he had a careless attitude toward stop signs. In other words, he was acting like a ten-year-old boy. I hope they never change.

This image made me think of the ending of the movie, "Mission." I hope the reader has seen that movie, for several reasons, not least of which is the musical score by Ennio Morricone. 

You might remember how it ended, after the climactic bloodbath of the natives: a couple small children had survived, and wer…

Can You Win a War Without Casualties?

America has had presidents who could offer the inspiration that the country needs right now, but I don't think a reality-TV-star will measure up. Perhaps the entertainment value of a president is not the most important thing in the world.

The country faces a serious struggle -- not exactly a "war" -- that represents what William James might have called the "moral equivalent of war." But our current struggle is more than just a metaphor of war, because it requires us to accept casualties, as a real war does.

How has the notion gotten into people's heads that you can win a struggle without casualties? It probably comes from the 20 year era of Forever War which the country got suckered into after 911. Although America has destroyed the lives of more than a million people in the Mideast, only a few thousand Americans have been killed.

No sacrifices by the average American in fighting wars on borrowed money -- that is what war has come to mean. But in recovering ou…

Getting Better at Giving/Receiving

You still see them -- panhandlers at places like Walmart parking lots. Oddly enough, the numbers haven't changed as much as I expected. How are they getting by? They usually have masks on, presumably so they don't scare people off. 

Are people more likely to donate to them at times like this? It is easy to come up with arguments pro and con on this question.

I have thought about making a donation, but rather than help strangers, it seemed like a better idea to donate to a friend or relative who has been hit hard by the times we live in. Does that make sense?

In thinking about these things, it suddenly occurred to me that Giving and Receiving are important issues in the human condition, and yet, I haven't really thought enough about them. If nothing else, it motivated me to read a classic book that didn't interest me before, "On Benefits," by Lucius Annaeus Seneca.

There are times when reading this book that you will imagine you are reading the New Testament. Perh…