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Showing posts from 2023

The Federal Reserve: Up the Creek Without a Paddle

Can you believe all the fuss made over the Federal Reserve's quarter point increase in the interest rate?  Would competitive canoeists quibble over whether they were paddling at a rate of 4.7 or 5.0 mph, when the current they are paddling against was -- what? -- 10 or 15 mph? I guess it is proof of how large and important the bond market is, since the value of existing bonds is affected by these tiny increases in the nominal interest rate. The Federal Reserve is so gutless.  I won't believe interest rates are too high until you stop seeing young men driving expensive pickup trucks, and until the side-by-side motorsports industry collapses.  Wouldn't it be wonderful to see interest rates squash the RV industry? Inflation today, inflation tomorrow...inflation forever.  Bill Bonner is right: America is becoming Argentina.

Good Communication Coaches Needed for You Tube

I had to push the pause button on a You Tube channel this morning, despite liking the content.   I just couldn't stand the style.   It was supposed to be a roundtable conversation between three people.  But one guy got control over the microphone and just wouldn't shut up.  Why did the moderator not shut him down?   Time after time, on You Tube, you see people who need to hire a communications coach. It doesn't end with podium-hogs. There are too many people speaking heavily accented English.  It requires too much effort and concentration on my part to listen to them.  If I wanted to put out that much work, I would read something, rather than watch a video. You Tubers need to ask themselves whether they are even using the right medium.  Or if they have chosen video as their medium, how they should adjust their style to fit the medium. Another thing that will cause me to turn the video off is people who speak written-English instead of speaking spoken-English.  Lawyers an

Hard to Believe This Is Arizona

On yesterday's ride I was amused, at first, by all the stream crossings.  I've never seen so much water on this road, in all the years of visiting it.  And the streams were making the Little Cute One muddy, just a week after I gave her a shower with lavender/rosemary doggie shampoo! But haven't I praised rain and cursed sunlight in Arizona quite enough, over the years?  'Be careful what you wish for' is the moral of the story, I guess.   Eventually the stream-crossings ended, and the road became a stream.  Enough was enough.  I turned around.  On the first stream-crossing coming back, I went down a steep embankment.  When the front wheel of the bike bottomed out in the stream, it sank into soft muck.  So I flew over the handlebar, and did a faceplant in the embankment on the other side. Nothing was damaged.  I just couldn't believe this was Arizona! from

Drowning in Tawny

'Spring' means rebirth.  But it has another layer of meaning to a traveler, since they can leave the desert wasteland of southwestern Arizona, and migrate to southeastern Arizona.  Goodbye to cholla and rubble.  Hello to soil (!), grasslands, mesquite trees, and: Canyon Live Oak.  The classic tree that appears in Hollywood westerns. The first couple years I went to 4000' elevations in southeastern Arizona in spring, it didn't seem like spring at all.  Everything was brown and dormant.  And harshly so. I am glad I didn't give up on it.  Over the years, it has grown on me.  Appreciation that isn't instant and easy can end up much more satisfying than the tourist stuff. Naturally it would have to have little spikes on the edge, but hey, a green leaf in winter!

Grocery Stores Could Eliminate Four Aisles

Whenever I go to a grocery store these days, I am surprised that entire aisles haven't disappeared.  People are still buying over-priced chips, frozen gourmet foods, imported cheeses in the deli sections, convenient junk foods of all kinds, etc.?     Personally I am stepping towards the diet of a third-world peasant or one of our not-so-distant ancestors: rice and beans, bread, and root vegetables.  (But eggs are still unaffordable.)  Actually this isn't such a bad thing.  I wouldn't want to be in the shoes of consumers who have rigid habits! Now that bank failures are in the news, and memories of 2008 are back, are the "helicopters" starting to warm up at the Federal Reserve?  (For the purpose of dropping money.) All the usual suspects on Wall Street and in Congress want the Federal Reserve to back off of "high" interest rates.  "High" means half to a third of the real inflation rate.  And yet, the American banking system is throwing a tantrum

A New Visual Art

Despite having little interest in purdy scenery, I am interested in the visual arts.  There really are 'pictures that are worth a thousand words' and there are photographs 'that tell a story.'  Cartoons can sometimes be the best of the visual arts. Some people can think out a good cartoon, but they still can't freehand-draw it.  That is what makes photo editing an interesting visual art. The other day there was news from the usual rogues/state actors about the Nordstream pipeline destruction being carried out by a sailboat in the Baltic Sea.  Then I saw this: I saw this on a Telegram channel, and don't know who gets the credit for it.  But I laughed my head off.  Maybe mockery is the best attitude towards the current regime in the West.

Don't Fear Not Being Number 1

Is officialdom in Washington DC afraid of losing their control over planet Earth?  Is it really so terrifying not being the Big Cheese?   Let's say the European Age is 550 years old, starting with sailing out far into the Atlantic Ocean.  Look at all the countries that had their decades or even century of ascendancy, before they threw it away with fiscal mismanagement or excess warmongering. What happened when they stepped down?  Was life really so bad?  And none of them came back to the comfort of having the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.  The USA will get by just fine when it no longer rules planet Earth. Of course officialdom in Washington DC might feel differently.  A lot of good-paying careers in government must be downsized, with a smaller empire.

Selling Out to the Tourist Establishment?

 In the Southwest, an explosive bloom has been expected because of wonderful winter rain. What better way is there to honor the rain than to relent, to put my snobbishness aside, and to play wildflower-tourist?   Since it wasn't quite the weekend, the crowds were actually tolerable.  They haven't quite gone to a reservation-system yet, just for admission.   It is strange how close you have to get in order to see the flowers.  OK I admit it: they are somewhat impressive. What I like about this photo is the way it invokes the feeling of drowning in the flowers.   Right after taking this photo, I got busted for stepping off the official footpath.  I hate state parks.   Actually there was very little variety in the colors there.  What is the big deal about the sheer quantity of one thing?  There is philosophical similarity between the sheer quantity of flowers and the sheer quantity of mass-tourists, all programmed to like the same thing.  I prefer an interesting assortment of co

When to Do-It-Yourself, and When Not To

Does it make sense to get interested in repairing your own car, especially if you aren't in a position to work on it, or because you are a traveler, lack a garage or machine shop, or are old and stiff?   A You Tube channel warned me that repair shops usually talk you into replacing your brake pads before their time, because of concern for the shop's liability, or because they assume customers won't check the pads themselves.  Thus inspired, I removed the wheel and went to work.  Besides, I needed practice removing the wheel in case of a flat tire or to enable closer inspection of things. It was fun to learn that my brakes pads had a lot of material left on them.  By chance I looked up and found this: Dead center in the photo, an electrical cable is resting on top of a bolt head.  "Resting?"  Like hell.  I could see the cable being deformed by the sharp 90 degree angle of the bolt head. On my first van, 15 years ago, I suffered my most expensive and frustrating r

A Different Type of Beauty

The other day, while getting my van fixed, I had what you could call an especially pleasant travel experience.  The Little Cute One and I sat on a bench on the south side of the service building.  The air was chilly, but the sun had plenty of force, especially because it bounced off the brick wall at our backs. To the south, the Huachuca Mountains were snow-capped and crisp-looking.  I enjoyed looking at them.  But even more, I enjoyed the sound of productive human beings in the repair shop.  There is a beauty to productive human beings that should be glorified more. __________________________________ It is so easy to start the day with the same ol' internet routine.  But recently I 'discovered' videos about "car flipping."  It is becoming more popular for people to buy dead or dying cars at low prices, do a weekend or two of work on them, get them working again, pretty them up some, and sell them off at a profit. Work like that must be very satisfying and benefic

It Looks So Cool to Drive Vehicles Across Rivers!

Have you ever seen off-road pickup trucks being driven across a river?  I used to see it a dozen times a day at a campground in a state (I have since coloradicated).  It was quite surprising to see most modern vehicles keep working after crossing the river, despite all the electronics and connectors under the hood. One expensive German car wasn't so lucky: the alternator was at the bottom of the engine compartment.  The vehicle became electrically dead.  They couldn't even shift it into neutral to make it easy for the tow truck driver. Still, is driving all that electrical and electronics through water such a great idea?  It isn't just the short circuits -- what about long term corrosion in electrical connectors and modules?  But it looks cool on the internet. My GM van is rather new.  Splashing through a puddle the other day, the Check Engine Light came on, instantly.  Hmmm?   Even though the van was still covered by the Powertrain Warranty, the warranty does not cover se

Desert Deja Vu

  The other day I asked some other mountain bikers whether they too noticed the saguaro cactus getting stout, and they said "yes".   Good to hear --  I was afraid I was just imagining it.  Saguaros are supposed to 'accordion out' after rains. Why not just measure the circumference of a specific saguaro (or two) with a tape measure?  It looks impossible to wrap a tape around the saguaro with all those spines on the outer diameter. So I was left with the subjective and uncertain experience of sensing the expanding girth of the saguaros as I rode by them on the bike.  It was probably more fun than knowing for sure. That wasn't the only experience of that type.  Ocotillos seemed to be budding out.  But was I getting ahead of Mother Nature on that one? These experiences were similar to something I wrote about years ago: that a favorite outdoor experience was to start a hike or bike ride on a trail that was easy to see, and then watch it slowly evanesce into something

The Lesser of Two Evils

Hellish wind is the central fact of a Southwestern existence, in spring.  The other night, predictions were for high wind, so I put my camper's stabilizer jacks down.  I'm glad I did. Here is what I found the next morning. The cholla in the lower half of the photo has been ripped out by the roots.  I've never seen that before.  You could think of the photo as a metaphor for "when evil meets evil."

Green Leaves in a Forsaken Wasteland

  Looking through some desert photographs the other day, it seemed strange that I had none of the ocotillos that are leafing out like crazy right now.  Soon, there should be red blooms. Maybe it isn't so surprising.  There is nothing visually spectacular about rather ordinary small green leaves. But it is very satisfying to "see" these leaves, not for mere scenery, but for what they represent.  How can you even discuss this without stepping into clichés such as the 'circle of life?'  But that is what it is.   Nature is cyclical.   If you can't feel a profound satisfaction at watching new leaves after a desert rain, green shoots poking through crusty snow in the North, or a new litter of squirming puppies, then you might as well go home, because you have seen the best that Mother Nature has to offer.   Forgive me if this sounds preachy --  I am actually preaching to myself. This is how harsh ocotillos are, most of the time.

Don't Do Taxes on Presidents' Day

It was bad timing on my part to do taxes so close to the Presidents' Day holiday.  (Can you imagine a more ridiculous holiday?!)   What was it that President Carter called our tax system: "a disgrace to the human race?" There was a temptation to wallow in some sour and unprofitable thoughts about our political system.  But I resisted.   There are more pleasant things to think about: Washington DC's global militaristic empire seems to be falling apart right in front of our eyes.  "DC" might possibly get away with its destruction of the Nordstream gas pipeline, but only because the German Greens are also interested in committing economic suicide. But elsewhere it seems that most events are solidifying Eurasia as a rival power bloc.  How much prestige and influence will "DC" be left with after a humiliating defeat in the Ukraine War?  

Raising the Next Generation

 Don't think too hard about this photograph.  You might turn it into a visual metaphor.  It does sum up what is happening to the local desert in southwestern Arizona.

Inflation for the Long-Term

In the real world, how many people believe that the real inflation rate in the USA is the official 6--8%?  These numbers come from the fox that is in charge of the hen house.  Government salaries, social security payments, and income tax brackets are tied to the official inflation rate.  And of course the government wants to  pay back its 31 trillion dollars of debt with devalued dollars.  Therefore the government has good solid reasons for lying about the real inflation rate. I think most people will agree with the first paragraph, and in fact, consider it too obvious to belabor.  What isn't so obvious is why the government doesn't lie even more?  What's to stop them?  In a sense, this is cheerful news: your government could be totally corrupt and get away with it, but apparently, it is content to be only half-corrupt. Consider how easy it is to lie more completely.  It has become time-honored and respectable for the Federal Reserve to consider an inflation rate that omit

Weather That Is Good for the Soul

  One of the problems with the internet is that when you shoot your mouth off, there is a permanent record of it.  I am always praising cold and wet climates.  Well, be careful what you wish for! I didn't even want to leave my van and run a few steps into stores, today, in town.  The cold rain felt harsh -- I didn't even think that was possible! Later in the day the sun came out, and my solar panels fully charged the batteries.  We went for a cheerful walk.  Surely this reaction has happened before, but I can't really remember it.  Eating a little crow is good for the soul.

Noise and Stink While Drowning in Sunlight

From time to time I see an impressive example of how lively an old idea can become when you stumble onto some unplanned experience.    I was bicycling a mile from where I was camped.  It was dead calm.  The air was still somewhat cool, but the sun was impressively warm.  In fact you could say it was the first day of summer, as horrifying as that thought might be.  Anybody who was out and about must have felt like they were drowning in sunlight.  That was when I passed a camper whose generator could be heard for the last half mile.  It was so large that a noticeable stink laid across my road. As you know, I tend to be sympathetic to newbie campers who are holding back on going solar.  After all, they have been hit by a chain reaction of unplanned expenses after buying their rigs.  Also, they are still deciding on what their camping style is going to be, so they don't want to spent a lot on solar equipment and then not use it. But the camper in question did not appear to be hurting f

Playing Armchair General Again in Ukraine

 Why would somebody without a military background want to play armchair general?  Maybe because they have no military background! Foolish though it be, here it goes: how should the Russians finish off Ukraine?  Everybody expects them to feint at Kiev by coming south from Belarus.  Then they expect the main Russian offensive to be in the south and east, say, on the Zaporozhe front or upriver, nearer the Donbass proper. For that reason I think they should make Kiev the main target.  If they can threaten to topple the regime, Ukraine will have to pull its troops back from the south and eastern front.  Ukraine will not want to blow up the bridges across the Dnieper until it has pulled its troops back towards Kiev.  Perhaps the Russians can get control of those bridges during this transition. But can Russia decapitate or topple the Kiev regime without massive civilian casualties in Kiev, which is a huge city of a few million people? You will tell me that my suggestion is totally amateurish

The Sociable Camper

 Southwestern Arizona.  Right now I am camped where I actually visit other campers on just about every bike ride or walk.  I never do that the rest of the year, so it feels wonderful.  Naturally I wonder why it doesn't occur elsewhere. Before trying to answer that, let's start with an anecdote.  Somebody was walking by my new campsite yesterday and began talking to me.  (I was outdoors, messing around with setup, so I was approachable.)  It turned into a nice conversation about climate in different locales.  It did not get sidetracked into politics.  Perhaps he was willing to talk to me because he was alone and wasn't subservient to a wife.  He didn't seem concerned about our conversation messing up his Strava times. Soon he had me in the palm of his hand.  Then we talked about the heavenly rain and wondered when the green leaves of the ocotillos will burst out.  And when the wildflower season will erupt.  He mentioned that there were apps that tell a person where and w

The State Tree of Arizona

  Do they still have state trees, birds, etc.?  Well, regardless, I know what the state plant of Arizona should be. But there probably isn't a state soil.  If there were, here is what the state soil of Arizona would be. Just yesterday I gave up on an evening walk with my little dog because she got into the cholla again.  I had the needle-nose pliers along, and she is getting braver.  But still, when she squeals, it wounds me.  If this sounds too critical of Arizona, how would you experience the sweetest pleasure of the desert unless it was set up by brutality?  The contrast is exquisite. What could be more fresh, kind, merciful, and gentle than a desert after rain?

Why Big Fish Eat Little Fish

I used to think that England was a bully for swallowing Wales, Scotland, Cornwall, and Ireland.  What justification was there?    I think the Ukraine War answers that question. If Wales had been completely independent of England, Wales might have made agreements with France (or other enemies of England) to use Wales as a springboard for attacking England.  The resulting war would have been bloody because France would have gotten entrenched on the island of Britain. Likewise Russia made a mistake in allowing Ukraine to join Russia's enemies after the 2014 coup d'état.  The bloodiness increased because of that decision.  You could probably make the same argument about Russia allowing the Baltic countries, Poland, or Finland to join Russia's enemies, unless Russia permanently accepts these changes.  But it couldn't accept Ukraine allying itself with Russia's enemies.

When Teddie Bear Chollas Take Over

Altitude 2000 feet in southwestern Arizona.  I wish I understood what was going on with the Teddie Bear chollas around here.  If memory serves, they used to be fairly rare around here.  Now they are everywhere.  It is a dreadful experience to see your dog get into the teddie bear chollas. The good news is the situation is more manageable than you think.  Dogs learn to avoid the cholla segments that fall off the plant and roll around on the ground, sometimes several feet from the parent plant. Dogs tend to get these cholla segments on their feet, and then they try to get them off with their mouths.  You might not be able to remove every spine from the dog's mouth or tongue.  Believe it or not, dog saliva softens these spines. My little dog got into the teddie bears for the first time yesterday.  Believe it or not, she didn't transfer the spines to her mouth.  She was lucky, because her daddy had a pair of needle nose pliers to pull the segments (1-3 inches long) off the paws.  S

Hoping Versus Expecting

 The new Congress has been in session for a couple weeks now. It is already dropping out of the news, as it should. Every year I find myself setting lower and lower expectations for things in general. That doesn't mean giving up hope. Actually it is quite the opposite of that. Any surprises are likely to be on the positive side. We should be cheerleaders for those surprises. At the moment geopolitics and national politics seem too discouraging to think about. I would rather think about having some of the best winter camping weather ever. "Best" means cool and calm. And if that isn't perfect enough for you, we have had enough rain to hope for colorful wildflowers in late February (?). Let's hope I am tough enough to remain in the desert long enough to see those wildflowers. Usually I have left the desert by the first of March.

Joining the Elites at Davos

The mighty world-improvers are set to convene again in Davos, Switzerland.  I wasn't invited. But that won't stop me from showing the world how we can achieve Utopia.   Think of a peasant grandmother, a babushka, walking down to the Volga River in the 1800s.  She carries a basket of clothes for washing.  At the river she chops a hole in the ice, and goes to work with her bare hands in the cold water.  And she is using no electricity, no Russian gas, no coal or petroleum.  How virtuous! The saints of Davos smileth upon her. A couple days ago my washboard arrived.  I haven't had one since my trip to mainland Mexico.  I remember the corrugated, galvanized steel washboard working quite well.  My new washboard appears promising, that is, effective.  It is just the right size for a 5 gallon bucket.  It is lightweight and won't rust.  But it is plastic, therefore, made from petrochemicals! It worked better than I hoped.  Look at this, just from a couple small articles of cloth

The Capture of Soledar

The "Wagner" group of the Russian military has apparently taken over the Donetsk city of Soledar today. (Donetsk is one of the four regions recently annexed to Russia.)  Considering how slow the battle near there has proceeded over the last couple months, this all seems rapid and triumphant.    There is an irony to watching the video from the movie, Apocalypse Now, featuring Richard Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries."  The video is a powerful combination of visual images, dramatic situation, and music.  Of course the war in the movie was Vietnam, but it is related to the Ukraine War in the sense that the Ukraine War might be seen as the American Empire's biggest debacle since Vietnam. Heretofore the war in the Donbass region has been slow and slogging, as if it were imitating the Western Front of World War One, albeit with satellites and drones.  And now something happened that seems blazingly fast by comparison. A certain amount of triumphalism is called for

Running Out of Gravity

There is something a little bit funny about the Yuma desert outside my door.  It has a desert pavement, but it is soft and thin.  (My little dog loves running on it, though.)  Nah, it is something else. Where are the arroyos?  There are only gentle swales a couple feet deep.  And yet bushes and dwarf trees line up along these swales.  Although there is nothing visually entertaining about this, it is fun to consider that this part of the Colorado River system has run out of 'gravity.'  There is only a few feet of altitude between my campsite and the Colorado River.  After that, it loses only a couple feet per mile before it oozes into the Gulf of California.  A person can camp over so much of the West and spend all of their time in the high-altitude drainages of the Colorado or the Columbia/Snake.  You could say that Yuma is the sister city of Astoria OR or even New Orleans.  Over most of the West, there is plenty of 'gravity.'  But not in Yuma.

Non-Chilly Nights

I was driving south the other day.  Not a good direction.  With all that sun blasting through the windshield, it was necessary to turn on the air conditioning -- in January for gawd's sake.  My Yuma nausea kicked on in seconds. But wait.  Since it is January, the warm hours only total up to about four.  That means 20 hours of mild coolness, instead of the more usual chilliness that one experiences in Arizona at night.  Being at an altitude of 250 feet has some advantages! In fact mild coolness at night is a rare pleasure for me.  It is worth thinking about it. 

Adapted to an Utter Wasteland

The burros are loud around here, especially an hour before sunrise.  They have built a nice network of single-track trails.  It makes sense that they need to make a trip to the Colorado River for water.  I've never seen 8 of them before in one group. (A day later we saw 12 in one group.) It isn't completely vegetation-free in the wide arroyos.  Can they pull leaves off sticker-y trees and make a living off of that?  Burros are one of the few signs of life here; there aren't even any jackrabbits in this gawd-forsaken wasteland. The Little Cute One (my cockapoo) finally saw the burros and started squealing frantically.  She has a strong prey drive.  I didn't unsnap her from the bike.  She was acting like she would chase these burros for miles!  It seems surprising that a little cutie could have the same desires as a real animal. This was a reminder of how determined Life is, in the most unlikely places.  That is the thing worth thinking about here.  Not pretty sunsets.

Birds of a Feather

 The most optimistic attitude towards camping in 2023 is that I will manage to find a place to get away from neighbors in Arizona.  It is something to work for.  It would truly be "Living the Dream." It is ironic that I am grousing about RV snowbirds when camping near Arizona's largest collection of geese snowbirds.  The geese seem to like parking next to thousands of other geese.  (I thought there was some reason why I disliked geese besides their hissing and shit.) I used to think that young Van Life nomads were an improvement over the stereotypical snowbirds of the older generation.  After all, the Van Lifer has no room for a 6 kilowatt construction site generator.  Then again, it seems like Van Lifers are slamming the door every 10 minutes.  (At least generator noise is steady.)  Why the slamming?  Their You Tube channels extol the glamor of Van Life.  But apparently they need to escape claustrophobia in that van every 10 minutes. Oh dear me!  I am starting a new year