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Showing posts from 2023

Learning About REAL Nomads

It has become a cliché about geopolitical 'tectonic plates' shifting in today's world.  It is true, though.  Still, it is possible to burn out on following these 'tectonic plates,' such as Ukraine, Gaza, and BRICS+. One good thing that comes from thinking about the shift of power to Eurasia is that you start to learn about the geography of central Asia and the lifestyles of traditional nomads or steppe people.  We need to remind ourselves that most of the languages of Europe came from the steppe people of 2000 BC.  Fortunately some interesting media about Central Asia exists.  If helps to do a search of books with the phrase 'Silk Road.'  Here is an interesting You Tube channel: When you see the word, nomad, in modern America, it is usually about somebody who lives in a van, and solves every problem by buying another lithium battery or electronic module.  Their main message is BUY, BUY, BUY. That is why it is so refreshing to learn about real nomads, their

Wallowing in the Rainy Glory of the Desert

Like most single people I don't pay much attention to holidays.  But this year I want to make a project of organizing my photographs on the computer.  Maybe this seems like an obvious idea.  But look at this photograph.  It explains why I have trouble getting motivated with photography: If you zoom in, you can see the crazed look on her face, as dogs usually have when they are running fast off-leash.  And I was as enthusiastic as she was. She doesn't come back well, especially with her strong prey drive, so she usually has to stay on-leash.  But arroyos tend to confine the dog, even if they don't have high, vertical walls.  The photograph doesn't really show it, but the arroyo-gravel is rounded, making for happy dog paws.  So she voluntarily stayed in her joy-trough.  This was the day of our big rain in west-central Arizona.   Everything was enjoyable: clouds, humidity, a fresh smell, the lack of motorsport-yahoos, and cool air.  Another rain like this one, and spring

The Fear Racket

My password-manager company has hit me with ads for a premium service.  For an eternal subscription they will protect me from new threats.  These threats are less concrete and less understood by me than a grandmother's stories of the Bogeyman are, by a small child. Why haven't I read a history book about the Bogeyman, something with Toynbee-like scope and imagination?  Actually Wikipedia has a pretty good article about the Bogeyman.  But it completely ignores the implications for religions and political systems. Recall the quote from Mencken, " The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." Today some people are fretting over the Orange Bad Man coming back to the White House.  Fears over Global Warming are probably the best reincarnation of the Bogeyman.  It makes perfect sense for governmental elites to try to scare citizens with

Success and Failure at Ignoring Annoyances

What happened to my tough talk about camping in cooler locations this winter?  I was supposed to avoid the hackneyed, overused locations in Arizona.   One excuse was the higher propane prices.  But the real reason is that I love cool, insect-free weather, from 35F to 65F.  And as for the nuisance of camping neighbors, well, maybe I can do a better job of avoiding them.  Here it is, almost Christmas, and I have avoided the generator-ghettos of the Southwest.  Yesterday I found myself in a music ghetto.  But actually it could have been much worse.  Still, I moved.  My new location lacks neighbors. A perfect human being would set their expectations so low that the most moronic neighbors would seem "OK."  But I have reluctantly put off moral perfection to my 'next life.'  Besides, I did have some control over the situation:  I could move. Seriously, I am not pleased with letting some petty annoyances bother me.  And then I show remarkable patience and forbearance with ot

Getting Sucked-In to a Canyon's Music

  What is the fastest way to the canyon floor?  The rocks are so sharp on top that the poor little dog needs to get to the round gravel quickly!  How could a place be so un-earthly and so hostile to life? There was a narrow and eroded ridge close to my campsite that got us down to the canyon floor quickly.  One step off the centerline of the ridge and we would have fallen to a serious injury.  And normally the cellphone signal disappears in the bottom. Worse yet, there were eroded cavities a foot or two off the ridgeline.  It was impossible to tell how collapsible they were.  It was horrifying to think of these holes as a sentient Malevolence that swallowed and destroyed my little dog.  Ahh but she was so happy on the canyon floor when I unsnapped her.  Free to blast around!  And yet confined by the near verticality of the canyon walls.  There were no coyotes or biological life of any kind to hurt her. We walked "downstream."  There is always something metaphorical and satisf

The Charm of a Micro-climate

The freakish calmness of the Southwest has ended, and "horizontal gravity" has returned.  (That means the wind.)    I am not complaining.  The calmness was great while it lasted. The wind was from the north.  It actually took effort on my part to face my trailer door to the south -- it is so against the habit formed in summer.  But it was wonderful to have that little island of warmth and calmness just outside the trailer door.  Despite the chill I kept the door open to allow the sun to warm up the solar screen.  The wind sped up my backcountry "babushka" (laundry) duties! How many ways can I say 'wonderful?'  It is almost funny how this little trick of facing the door towards the sun and away from the wind seems to escape me.  It would be beneficial to think of other examples of playing the same game. Going through my photos of "weather and sky", it is remarkable how few photographs there are of the wind.  It is difficult to photograph wind, odor

A Camper Turns Pagan at the Solstice

It's not for nothing that the word 'pagan' meant rustic or country-living person in Latin.  Over the years, the idea has insinuated itself into my mind that a camper (gardener, backwoods home dweller, etc.) is more pagan than a normal person who lives in a sticks-and-bricks house.  The sticks-and-bricks liver is so insulated from the forces of nature that nature is relegated to nothing more than pretty scenery or sentimentalism about cyootsie-wootsie animals. The paganism of a camper comes out more strongly as we near the winter solstice.  Half of the year the sun is oppressive.  Escaping its cruelty is the primary fact of our existence.  And yet, all of the year our battery is charged by solar energy!    Hours of daylight, angles, and shadows are very real to the camper.  Campers are essentially farmers of solar energy. And then mid-winter happens.  That horrid monster up there in the sky becomes so wan and sickly.  It's like moving to a different planet.  Or, conside

Annual Sermon Against Rock Arrangements

  I usually look for a change in my walking route down through the canyon system.  I couldn't remember if it was possible to get into the last side-canyon from the south.  So I took my best stab at it and was immediately rewarded with rounded gravel, rather than the sharp rocks that are hard on doggie paws. And indeed I made it down to the bottom and felt pretty cocky about it.  Soon there was a rock cairn.  I dismantled it. Please don't think that I am unable to look at things from other people's point of view.  The person who built the cairn probably thought it was harmless or even helpful to other people or themselves.  They thought they were improving the situation, and that is a positive thing, isn't it? But it destroys the mood that other walkers are trying to slip into.  Some people love getting confused and trying to make a route work.  That is why they use the term "adventure."  They (and I) can get annoyed by other people's "improvements&qu

Why the Curious Timing with the "Napoleon" movie?

  So Hollywood still makes movies?  Even I got the message that a new blockbuster movie was being released.  "Napoleon."  I am old enough to remember when it was a big deal to release a new blockbuster.  But who goes to movie theatres these days?  Watching a blockbuster movie on a small electronic screen just isn't the same.  But young folks might not feel that way. The timing seems a little odd or even suspicious.   From  .  I have decided to add tin-hat conspiracy mode to my portfolio, along with armchair general mode, world-juggling geopolitical analyst, Machiavellian political consultant, and wise old man/prophet of the mountain. The timing is just right for giving the ignorant Masses in the "West" a little relief.  The movie might remind them that, once upon a time, not so terribly long ago, the West was mighty, fierce, and heroic.  It had giants as national leaders.  And the greatest militaries in the world. Therefore a reminder like thi

Annual Praise for Canyon/Badlands

I don't post much about the weather but there are exceptions.  Right now I am experiencing a miracle: no horizontal gravity (aka, no desert wind), lows in the 30s F, highs in the 60s F, and p lenty of sun for charging the battery.  That means it is unnecessary to use heat.  Good sleeping weather. And no bugs! Many snowbirds are dissatisfied here because it is not warm enough for them.  They want it warm enough to sit around in chairs, in a conversational circle, while wearing shorts.  I try to remember where they are coming from.  Still, warm weather is not necessary to make me happy. Every year I stop in at this canyon/badlands area in southeastern Nevada and praise it. (The land, not the snowbird neighbors.)  Many people are attracted to topographies with weird, eroded features. Mere prettiness is a bit insipid for my tastes.  A landscape becomes more interesting to me if you add some fear and horribleness to it.  (Recall the old saying that a movie is no better than the villain.

Needed: A Positive Vision of a Post-Imperial America

  Do you remember the fundamental changes that were happening to the world around 1990, when the Soviet Union rode off into the sunset?  President George H.W. Bush used to acknowledge the "vision thing" problem that he had.  (People criticized him for not providing leadership for what America would be like without the Soviet bogeyman.) The same thing seems to be happening now, except that this time it is the American Empire that is falling apart.  Will anyone emerge during the next election who provides real leadership about what post-Imperial America should be like?  I have my doubts: for the most part they will just provide a vision of perpetual war abroad and authoritarianism at home.  For a time I thought RFK Jr. might provide that kind of leadership.  But he has shown himself to be a craven ass-kisser of Israel. America still has the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.  Nobody in the world really has a blue water navy besides us.  So it is not

Finally, a Miracle Technology for Campers!

For the first time in my life I regret being a late adopter of some vaunted new technology. And this is bad news for Bic and all the companies that make those horrible little butane lighters that you use to light your gas stove or start a campfire.  In RV lingo, they are called "flame throwers."  I have used so many of those crappy little things.  I've tried refilling them, buying more expensive ones, or getting by with just the piezo spark.   It has always been a good idea to maintain a cache of wooden matches as a backup. Just recently a friend liberated me from butane lighters by showing me a new-fangled electric lighter. No piezo element.  No butane.  No fumbling with child-proof, Ralph Nader-approved buttons that require three hands. And no buying a new one every six months, just to learn that the price has gone up again. Electric arcs are not a new idea.  They have been around since Benjamin Franklin's kite.  Wikipedia actually has a good article on them, appa

You Mean that Kids Can Be Great?!

As a camper heads south in the winter, they find conditions more and more crowded.  Be that as it may, I have had some nice conversations in my present overcrowded location in southwestern Utah.  It even went further than that. I stopped in at a neighbor who had an unusual trailer.  But what really drew me in was his "Let's Go Brandon!" flag flying over the trailer, combined with his California license plates!  We joked about that for a while.  His wife and son came out and fawned over my little dog.   I have since run into his 11 year-old son several times.  The lad impressed me every time.  One day he was flying a kite!  You mean kids still do things like that?  Without a battery or smartphone app? An RV friend and I turned to each other and said "What a great kid!" after we had talked to him one day.  My friend speculated that the lad had been home-schooled;  it was hard to believe he was a product of the public schools of California. This seemed like it was

The Exquisite Can Be Fragile

Good conversations do happen between travelers, although I have trained myself not to expect too much.  It is better to aim for a few words of pleasantness, declare victory, and then move on.  But the other day a pickup truck driver and I surprised each other, I think.  He had made a wrong turn and was getting turned around.  I was on the bike, with the Little Cute One running beside me.  Therefore we were both pretty approachable. We were both complaining about over-crowdedness in an area that we both loved.  It seemed like the conversation was headed into a dead-end, with the usual complaints about crowds, tourists, etc.  But I redeemed the conversation by saying that, "It's not that I hate the human race or something, and it's not that the other people are doing something illegal, it's just that I love slipping into a certain mood in the outdoors.  And it is hard to get into that mood with hordes of people around." A big smile broke out on his face.  He was th

Are Israel's Neighbors More Potent Than in the Past?

 Some geopolitical commentators emphasize that Israel's Arab and Muslim neighbors are not the countries they were in 1967 or 1973.   They are more populous, certainly.  But are they capable of acting in concert? Crowds of protestors have made their outrage over the slaughter in Gaza known in Mideast Arab and Muslim countries.  That is a start.  But it seems easy for these countries' politicians to alter their speeches a little bit, and then do nothing.  The perfect example is Erdogan in Turkiye: he is the master of duplicity. It is healthy to emphasize what all sides of the conflict share in common, instead of what divides them.  Although it might sound sarcastic at first, it really is true that all sides are united in having politicians that are lying sacks of shit.  Seriously!  That seems to be a fundamental part of the human condition that we all share, regardless of religion, ethnicity, or political creed. Of course the BRICS+ organization is up and running, with Saudi Arab

Reviving an Interest in the Winter Southwest

Years ago I used to like this sort of Southwestern scenery:   But a person's tastes can change over time.  Now I want to see more life and less rock.  I yearn for rich topsoil, green leaves, bunnies disporting across a forest meadow, and maybe even a young shepherdess with long and lustrous hair blowing in a gentle breeze.   Who knows how much of my initial interest was just an imitation of snowbirds who come to Arizona to escape the damp dark icy weather of the north.  They aren't doing anything wrong, considering where they are coming from.  But their needs are different than mine. And yet I might be able to extend an interest in the Southwest by shifting to colder locations.  If nothing else, the camping will be less crowded.  But there might be even more to gain. It takes some effort to go for a walk right at sunrise.  But imagine how heavenly it can be it there is no wind!  Granted, the chilliness seems a little alarming when you start off.  You can imagine a crunchiness

Using Popular Superstitions to Justify Slaughter

It is hard to believe that the world can get any crazier.  There is so much shameful, embarrassing,  and reckless talk about Biblical prophecies today because of the conflict between Israel and Gaza. We live in a world of nuclear energy, microelectronics, and 5G telecommunications.  And yet people invoke ancient superstitions to justify mass-slaughter.  When will the world say, "Enough!  These ancient superstitions are not needed in the world anymore."  I doubt that politicians in the US ever will say that.   What was it that Tocqueville said about America in the 1830s?: 'Religious insanity is everywhere prevalent in America,' or something like that.  By chance I watched an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation last night that fit in so perfectly with the situation today.  It was season 3, "Who Watches the Watchers?"    Some anthropologists were on a planet, covertly studying proto-Vulcans at a Bronze Age level.  But their technology used to disguise th

Side Canyons

Autumn is over.  Wasn't it just a month ago that I happily announced that summer was over?  Winter seems to hit Utah in late October every year.  But it was a good autumn despite being too short, so I have no complaints. I was camped at the foot of the city of "Stratos" (recall the old Star Trek episode) where I camped last week and posted about.  While the Little Cute One and I mountain biked into canyon country, it was possible to look up at Stratos and remember it.  For some reason this had a surprisingly strong effect on me.   This year I skipped visiting the main canyon -- it has gotten too crowded and touristy.  So I followed the advice of an old RV friend (at  .)  He was a Denver hiker and RVer who found a good way to work around the crowded hiking trails on Colorado "Fourteeners:"  he only went up mountains that were 13,950 feet high.  Doing so resulted in him having the mountain to himself. I have used his advice so many times,

The Judeo-Christian Tradition on Display Under Gaza's Rubble

 From time to time I reread Carl Becker's "The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth Century Philosophers."  It is a short and delightful book, written by a history professor of all things! It always brings a smile to my face to read, "They courageously discussed atheism, but not before the servants." That issue always came up when post-Christians ask whether God actually exists: "...but where would morality come from, if there was no God?" Keep that old trope in mind when you watch videos of Gazan children being pulled out of the rubble left by the Judeo-Christian tradition, acting through its military technology.  Great work, YHWH!  You were always such a charmer.   from

Levitating On the City of "Stratos"

Central Utah.  Several times this summer I have camped at altitudes high enough to feel like I was in that episode in the third season of the original Star Trek ("The Cloud Minders"), about the city that levitated in the clouds.  The city was called Stratos, where people pursued purely intellectual and artistic pursuits.  Down on the surface of the planet the peasants dug away in the mines and did other things that provided the material basis of the civilization. It brings a smile to my face to think of that episode when I am camp at a place like this.  But maybe there is more than a laughable pretentiousness to this experience.  Call it transcendence.  People flying on airplanes might feel that, too.  I even used to feel it when I reroofed my house, once.  You can feel liberated from the grubby details, the infinite clutter of things, and the useless busy-ness of life near the ground. Actually, verticality is not the dominant quality here; 30 or 40 miles away is a continuous

The Backcountry Babushka

It was about a year ago that I noticed laundromat prices rising sharply, especially the dryers.  I got angry enough to find a substitute: washing my clothes by hand.  It helped me get started in this new habit by visualizing a Russian babushka, with a scarf tied over her head, hauling a load of clothes down to the frozen Volga River, and then chopping a hole in the ice. (Something is wrong with the Brave browser.  I can't upload a photo.  I have to run to the Edge browser.) I got a shock the other day when I dunked my hands in the laundry bucket, early one morning.  It is tempting to start laundry earlier in the day now that days are shorter, so that they have time to dry.  But the water is cold!  Perhaps I should put the laundry bucket inside the van overnight.  Still, it was a satisfying experience.  Imagine that you have lived on restaurant food your entire life, and you suddenly got motivated to cook your own food, and that skillets and pans were a mystery to you.  How satisfyi

A Couple Run-aways Return

A man came by my campsite yesterday and asked if I had seen his dogs.  That seemed timely, because a day earlier I had lost my own dog for about an hour.  She was quite the little drama queen about it, but she has settled down now.  I have decided that she will never be allowed off-leash again.   Anyway, the man got his two dogs back, safe and sound.  We talked about getting a GPS tracker that talks to your smartphone.  I think it would work fine but ... he and I had an aversion to a monthly payment, especially if they try to automatically renew your subscription at the end of the year. The subscription model.  Everybody is adopting it on the internet.  Or trying to.  Personally I am getting better dropping out from anything that wants to charge me something on a monthly basis, forever.  It is a real shame that they are scaring me off.  Nothing is free and people deserve to be paid for their work.  But I prefer to make one-time-only donations at my discretion. So I don't know wha

Rolling Out "New" Heating Technology This Morning

It was quite a surprise to find that you can buy an old-fashioned rubber hot water bottle, not much different from what mommie gave you, as a child, for your ear-ache.  I am using it for the first time this morning.  It appears to be a good product.  Because its shape is flattish it slips better into a parka than a round plastic container does. The Little Cute One is wearing her doggie jacket.  She is sleeping under a pile of sleeping bags on my bed. I appreciate the better sleeping that goes along with chilly fall weather.  The Internet tells us that Hypnos was the ancient Greek god of sleep, and that he was only a minor deity.  Well, really!  Their theologians had their priorities all wrong.  Maybe they were just young. When the sun comes up in this part of the world (Utah), it is easy to appreciate the chilliness, because the air and sky are so crystalline and cheerful.  But it takes some work in the dark hours of the morning, assuming you aren't young and can't simply slee

Unanimity Is Not Healthy

The bizarre behavior of the Canadian Parliament of a couple weeks ago certainly got some attention.  As bad as saluting an actual Nazi was, there was something even more disturbing: their apparent unanimity.  That should have gotten more attention. The American Congress is trying to give them competition in the unanimity syndrome.  What is the number for Congress's support of Israel: 95% ? 97% ?  Wasn't there an old quote from some American politician of a few decades ago that went like, "You can't get a 60% majority to support a Mother's Day resolution?" There is something fishy about Congress's nearly unanimous support of Israel.  Something is broken.  But this is supposed to be an example of 'Freedom and Democracy' that we preach to the rest of the world?

Ancient Tribalisms and Superstitions Should be Shut Down

  I just watched videos showing Gazan parents carrying wounded children into the emergency rooms of hospitals.  It is a bit surprising that they even have hospitals in Gaza.  What should your emotional reaction be to visual images like this?  Both sides in the conflict are part of the YHWH cult, as are American Evangelicals, as well as American Jews, who are mostly-secularized!  Even NATO countries are one-sided in their support of Israel despite religion being pretty much dead in Europe. When will the world say finally say, "To hell with YHWH.  It is time to put these ancient superstitions and tribal fanaticisms aside.  They have caused enough suffering." How does the West reconcile their mighty Multiculturalism with one-sided support of Israel? Don't Palestinian Lives Matter?  If we are supposed to 'Celebrate Diversity' and all cultures are equally valid, then what is evil about Palestinian culture?  What hypocrisy! That is my reaction to these disturbing images

Palestine Rescues NATO

The various regimes of NATO including the Democrat party in the US must be feeling tremendous relief this weekend.  They were headed into a US election season owning a military debacle in Ukraine, inflation, and energy shortages.  They were going to have to explain to their peasants why they lied to them for years about the war in Ukraine. But now they have a chance to escape, thanks to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.  The Ukraine War can be allowed to fall "beneath the fold", to use an old newspaper metaphor.  The Israeli destruction of Gaza will become the "above the fold" story. All NATO will support Israel against the 'unprovoked' attack by Hamas, for 'as long as it takes.'  It will make NATO peasants feel 10 feet tall to look at their Asian-made television screens and see Israeli jets obliterating 'suspected terrorist' facilities in Gaza.  Americans will once again feel they are the 'indispensable' nation and are blessed with the 'g

A Few Stickers and Thorns are Worth It

The Little Cute One has made me pick her up a couple times, now that we are back in Utah and stickers.  At least there aren't a lot of thorns in this part of northeastern Utah.   Actually we are both being good sports about the stickers, because it is so good to enjoy autumn coolness, the absence of flying insects and rattlesnakes, and walking in arroyos again.   Walking in arroyos is something you don't do in the more northern states in the summer: water flows in the creeks up there!  So I missed these Utah arroyos. People who don't have dogs may not know what they are missing with cool dry air and walkable arroyos.  I never go to arroyos that are big brand names of the tourist industry.  I just use what is immediately available, right from my campsite.  More times than not, there are pleasant surprises to be found. The best times come from going with human friends and their animals.  Here is a photo from a Utah arroyo last year. Dogs are chasing scents of course.  But som

Has the Canadian Parliament Done NATO a Favor?

People are still aghast about the behavior of the Canadian Parliament the other day, when they gave a standing ovation to an elderly Nazi from the Ukraine.  Wouldn't it be ironic if something good came out of this?  Sounds impossible at first! I don't follow the regime media of the NATO countries so I could be wrong on this, but haven't they imposed a regime of silence on the history of Nazism in the Ukraine, not just during World War II but also in its aftermath?  Doesn't the regime media of the NATO countries boycott mentioning the neo-Nazis (Banderites) in modern Ukraine? I only know that the "alt" sites I listen to will refrain from using the word, Nazi, so that You Tube doesn't cancel them.  (Typically they are forced to use euphemisms such as 'ultra-nationalists.')  That would seem representative of the censorship regime across the board.  You would think it would be important to the taxpayers and voters of the NATO countries if their governm

Back to Winter Camping and Loving It

Maybe it was just useless speculation and bravado to say that I was going to stay in colder climates this winter in order to avoid the usual overcrowded and known-by-everybody camping locations in the Southwest.   Yesterday I moved into a state that you can easily guess from this photo: It is not a warm state.  And I camped at 8400 feet.  It gets down to freezing at night.  Perfect.  No bugs.  But no snow or ice either.  In the morning, the trailer is at 40 F or so.  About 3 a.m. the Little Cute One decides that it is Snuggle O'Clock:  she leaves her own warm bed and crawls up into mine. Here is the drill: don't get out of bed and then sit down in a chair.  Instead, do a minute of shoulder shrugs.  Why is that so effective?  Put a half inch of closed cell foam on my chair.  The chair itself is just a mesh which is great for summer, but an icebox in winter. Heat up water on the stove and pour it into the right container.  Then stick it in my parka as a body heater.  If you put a