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The Checkerboard of Progress

My first year with a smartphone is coming to a close. It has confirmed what I've believed for years: wait, wait, and wait some more with new technology and then give in. You win on everything. As impressive as smartphone technology is, there is another new 'gadget' in my house that impresses me more. My new toothbrush. I am not being facetious. I actually look forward to brushing my teeth.  It's not electric. It's the Oral B brand, and appears made with a good design and materials. You can actually notice the improvement. This is the first premium toothbrush I have ever bought. I used to get freebies from American dentists. Maybe they just weren't that good. But Mexican dentists don't do the promotional thing, so I had to buy my own toothbrush. It was such an odd experience to be so impressed by such a humble tool that it provoked me into thinking about Progress in general.  ___________________________________ During my lifetime (born in the Fift

The Shame of Surrender

You gotta give humans credit for being resourceful and inventive, especially when they are rationalizing their own sinful weakness. (5 extra credit points for finding the quote in Ben Franklin's autobiography about his deviation from his youthful vegetarianism.) I actually have an electric heater warming the inside of my trailer. The Kill-a-Watt device says that it is using only 860 Watts. I wonder if it will be running continuously at 7 tomorrow morning.  How have the mighty fallen! Last year my unheated trailer set a personal record for hitting 28 F inside. But tonight I keep looking at the heater and telling myself that it isn't really cheating because I am mooch-docking on a friend's driveway. Normally I mock (good-naturedly) the eremitic virtues of the hook-up-free camper, and then turn around and scold any camper who is using heat. Strange. Not so long ago, I played with the freezing point, as if it were an unattainable achievement. I used to flirt ever so c

Photographing a Flash Flood

A long time ago I saw my first flash flood, after years of being in the Southwest. It was pretty scrawny -- but still impressive if you think of what it represents. Recently it happened again, except that it was even tinier. The onset of running water was only a quarter inch deep. But it was fascinating! I walked it downstream, at a rate of maybe one mile per hour. I tried to play games with it. Could it be photographed? I looked at it from above: boring. Then I tried to get light to glance off of it: no good. Perhaps if the camera was lowered almost to the ground, and it focussed on the oncoming 'wave front', it might have looked a little bit impressive. But any still photograph would have missed the drama. Where are the photographers when you need them?! I played the game of guessing which way its downstream-most finger would extend. It proved impossible. That finger seemed like a sentient creature, probing, invading, and choosing its next victim. There is such gre

How Much Quoting is Cheating?

I'm not sure if I have ever pulled in a giant block quote before and just left it -- normally I try to blend it with daily experiences or observations. But this one was so good, I couldn't resist. Sorry if this is lazy of me. It was in an essay about the global warming cult: This cult has grown to be so large and convincing for several reasons. One reason is that we are encouraged by our media organizations to emancipate ourselves from organized religion, in that we are impelled to become agnostic, or an atheist. They are just as happy with us becoming ‘spiritual’, which is either something new age or pagan, and is likely to involve crystals. The important common denominator is that we must migrate as far away from Christian tradition as possible. The majority of Americans, either at their own inclination, or at the urging of popular culture and education, have done so. So many of the self-described atheists and “casual independents” no longer feel compelled to a

Modest Proposal for Improving the English Language

The most obvious way to improve the English language is to make spelling and pronunciation agree with each other. Isn't that the whole point in having an alphabet? The old excuse used to be, "But new readers won't be able to read the books published some time ago." But eventually that excuse will be obsolete, as information becomes stored digitally.  But a more timely complaint for me is the difficulty in understanding people's questions on internet discussion forums.  Is English the poster's third language? Or maybe they just don't know how to type. Actually, most confusion is due to one syndrome: they ask a question in sentence #1, which has three or four nouns in it. Then sentence #2 refers to "it".  It what? The reader can't tell which noun in sentence #1 the pronoun in sentence #2 is referring to. It becomes a reinvention of Abbott and Costello's classic "Who's on first?" comedy routine. Why does it even use the