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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

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 h

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. Typical northern scenery. And the mosquitoes are terrible in the northern s

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, b

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 landsc