Skip to main content


Showing posts from March, 2020

Encouraging Signs

Last episode I was comparing our yearning for some good news about the virus to a sailor struggling to "round the Horn." There are better analogies for people who live through east-of-the-Rockies winters. They yearn for the first sight of spring. In some places, blooming crocuses might do the trick. But lately it has been encouraging to see other people become more normal -- perhaps a certain ennui has set in, and they have turned the television set off. Have you noticed all the plexiglass windows popping up at the checkout counters? Some look improvised, while others look quite professional. What a sensible idea! These windows save the checkout person from being coughed on by a customer three feet away. I hope the windows remain in place after this virus panic is over. It surprises me when something practical, sensible, and affordable is done in the USA.  I think those little pieces of tape on the floor, that tell you where the 6 feet distance is, are also a good ide

"Rounding the Cape" for Corona

It is spring in New Mexico. So the central fact of physical existence is not sunlight -- as newbies might suppose -- but rather, horizontal gravity. Try leaving a building supply store with a 4' X 8' sheet of something! If you walk exactly into the wind, you might make it. But if you get 5 degrees off, you will "broach to," in nautical lingo. Then your load will fly horizontally into somebody's car. On such a day recently celltower workers chose to climb the mast, all the way up to the crow's nest. I decided to park on the other side of the parking lot. Imagine what it was like to be on the lookout for land in the crow's nest of a clipper ship, especially when the ship was heeled over at a 45 degree angle, and the length of the mast amplified the pitching and rolling of the ship. I am usually careful to park my camper's bow straight into the wind, to reduce the side-buffeting, and to ensure the side entry door is slammed shut by the wind, in

Chance to Replace Handshakes and Kisses

I am no epidemiologist, but why hasn't there been draconian government restrictions against kissing? Isn't kissing a particularly unsanitary habit? A dentist once told me that if you used a cotton swab to take a sample from the human mouth, and did the same with the anus, and put each sample in a separate petri dish, you would find the mouth-petri-dish far more disgusting in a few days. Perhaps if kissing was on lockdown, the birth-rate would fall precipitously nine months from now. (And who would object to that?) The human male is in a hurry to get past time-consuming preliminaries like kissing, and get down to 'business' ... maybe that is why kissing hasn't been put on lockdown, yet: the restriction would favor male pigs. Hand-shaking is the next thing I would like to eliminate. As a boy I loved shaking hands because it made me feel so grown up. But it does seem unsanitary. What year was it that American blacks began to give other "bro-s" a diffe

Panics as Asymmetrical Warfare

I've got to read up on asymmetrical warfare. (Where?) The virus panic shows how effective panic can be in destroying the economy of an enemy. Why bother with planes, ships, bombs, and bullets anymore? Even the most potent "boom" weapons need expensive delivery systems to get them to the enemy. But delivering a virus is free -- you just let the economy and normal travel habits do it.   I wonder if we ever will know who is responsible for this virus. If weapon-researchers screwed up, the information will be classified. Will the world get serious about international treaties that prevent this kind of mistake in the future? Even if it did, some future president might come along, and, like Bush and Trump did with nuclear missile and the Iran treaties, pull out of the treaty.  We are used to thinking of nuclear weapons as the final chapter in military history, but the world has gone through many radical changes in military tactics and weapons before.  So we shouldn'

Predictions About Post-Virus World

How much you wanna bet that after the virus-panic is over, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) is elevated to a cabinet-level department? It will waste more money than the Department of Homeland Defense, the monstrosity that was born after the panic of 9/11. Five years after the Department of Disease Control is created, it will be working on a labyrinth of regulations about how many chocolate chip cookies you are allowed to eat per month. It will expand its mission into automobile safety -- at least 6 hand sanitizer dispensers will be built into dashboards and the backs of seats. If they aren't used each time you get into "your" car, beepers and alarms will go off, and the car will be locked in the off position. But it would be enjoyable to visualize some beneficial changes to our institutions, brought on by this panic.  From Just think of the improvements possible if we abandon fast-food outlets and Starbucks. Maybe Wall Street will be fundamen

The Power of Myth

Wouldn't it be a shame to drive my new tow vehicle over the stump in my friend's driveway and rip up the undercarriage. Other friends of hers have done so. The truth is that I have always hated that stump and the mesquite tree that preceded it. Would it really be that hard to get rid of the stump? How should I know? I didn't know the first thing about stumps and chainsaws.  What a disappointment that chainsaw was! Even with a sharpened chain it didn't cut that mesquite stump so much as it just rubbed it, and generated heat.  Don't let the noisy furor of a chainsaw distract you from the wimpiness of the cutting teeth on the chain; it is surprising that they cut at all. I tried a pry bar and it worked a little bit, that is, it was useless in most places, but here and there it was effective. In other places a Milwaukee Sawz-all (reciprocating saw) did some good. My supervisor -- a man who had spent much of his life in Alaska and Montana -- kept warning me to clea

The Positive Side of Travel Restrictions

Most people don't know a lot about the spread of diseases, and neither do I. Much needs to be learned. So it would be better to ask skeptical questions in this post, rather than make bold assertions.  It shouldn't surprise anyone to see illogical medical choices made when A is banned, but B isn't. After all, politicians and bureaucrats are making the list of restrictions, not doctors. Whenever something big is gained or lost, politics will intrude and corrupt everything.  1.  Some of these restrictions might have a good effect, long-term. Does it really make sense for a hard-working East Asian family to dream of vacationing in North American national parks, Disney World, or Las Vegas? There are zillions of free pretty pictures on the internet, so why eat the expense of international travel? People will make do with tourist traps that are closer to home, and save themselves a fortune. What is so bad about that? It seems like a positive thing to appreciate the local att

Avoiding Controversy

I am pleasantly surprised to see myself getting good at avoiding controversy and contradiction with other people. All it takes is hearing a keyword or two, and I know to steer clear of a certain topic, be it politics, religion, food phobias, global warming, or whether plastic grocery sacks are the most evil thing in universe. And can transgender chickens still lay eggs? (Answer: yes, but only if they are cage-free.) If nothing else works, I will just remain silent. Actually it is strange how emotional people get over their opinions. Surely the thought has occurred to them that "their" opinions come from the school system or the media. For instance if somebody starts going on about their Trump Derangement Syndrome I am tempted to shrug off "their" opinions, and then ask them how many hours per day they watch television. So it isn't as if opinions are some kind of sacred, inviolable property that must be defended at all costs. If anything, it is their emotiona

The God of Democracy Has Feet of Clay

It wouldn't earn me an 'A' in high school civics class, but I plan on paying little attention to the presidential election this year. Presumably it is not necessary to list all the reasons. Suffice it to say that it is an embarrassment, before a world audience. People in other countries must be amazed that a country that elects presidents like we do, could possibly be a world power -- actually, the world power. So I will avert my eyes to diminish the pain of watching the spectacle. If I were to watch it, the result would be anger, sourness, cynicism, etc.  And what good would any of that do anybody? Nor I am arguing that democracy has no value just because it isn't perfect. Our system is terrible but we don't know how to improve it or won't bother to do so, and we don't know what to replace it with. Let's assume that many Americans feel the same way.  Why then do they think that 'Freedom & Democracy' are such deities? Why do they

Finally Using a Heater

Much to my surprise the heater turned on easily, after resting unused in a plastic bag for five years. Equipment, be it a car or even a bicycle, seems to degenerate when it sits around. I've never understood that. The warm orange color of the flame and the quiet hiss were pleasant and reassuring. I was headed over to a colder area to buy a new van, and I needed to be ready for it.   Many people would consider it a foolishly proud project to live without heat. Proud, yes; but not foolish. It seemed oddly significant to finally use a heater in my camper, after five years of heater-less living.  It is so stupid and wasteful to heat thousands of cubic feet of air in a normal house, when your skin interacts with only a tiny percentage of that. Why not just dress for cooler air? So you can think of my heater-less experiment as a protest vote against one aspect of the conventional way to live. Refusing to go along with something conventional and crazy does make an individu