Thursday, December 31, 2020

Climate

Montezuma Well, in the upper Sonoran Desert, a rare oasis. It was full of waterfowl.

One of the best things about life in Arizona is the range of climates available with just a short journey by car. We have cool alpine climates within an hour drive of most of the inhabited parts of the state.

If you live in the hot part of Arizona, you have to stay indoors during most of the day in the summer. But you can easily find relief by driving uphill for an hour or so and getting to a place where you can be outdoors without dying of heatstroke.

The opposite is true. Here in Flagstaff, we get snow and cold weather, but it's viable to drive 40 minutes to the upper Sonoran desert and be outdoors in shirt sleeves. We went for hikes at Montezuma Well and the Woods Canyon Trail in the high desert on Saturday. A day later I was snowboarding on the high peaks.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Pajama Work Attire

I used to present myself to the world as a stoic, ascetic person, but this is just a notion. When I was young, I sought out uncomfortable situations that provided some type of adventure. For instance, I used to run whitewater in the winter. Though difficult, dangerous, and cold, I found it rewarding. The older I've gotten, the more I appreciate comfort.

I received a gift of pajamas for Christmas. There was a time when I would have considered pajamas either old fashioned, dating back to a time before central heat exists, or childish, as parents typically clothe children in pajamas to keep their small bodies warm. This was silly. Pajamas have utility.

I love pajamas. I didn't realize how much I loved pajamas until about 5 years ago. Prior to that, I'd had some pajamas but associated them with being hot and itchy, because I made the mistake of trying to sleep in them. Since the invention of central heat, pajamas are for wearing around the house, not for sleeping in. It's the most comfortable item of attire for the house. This lesson has become more clear in the era of work-from-home. I wear a more presentable shirt for teleconferences, but pajamas are my favorite winter pants for working in the home.

I don't sleep in them though. Pajamas are for work.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Development Hell and Contingency

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3468162


The majority of movie scripts are never produced. Others that eventually get made spend years in "development hell," where they are passed around between production companies and rewritten, sometimes by several screenwriters. Some screenwriters even specialize in the process. These people are called script doctors.

Yet even when a script is deemed ready for production, it is sometimes subject to last second changes, and some movies start shooting without the ending written. Sometimes expensive sets burn down before shooting is complete, necessitating rewrites. Sometimes bad weather interferes with the shoot. Sometimes actors throw tantrums or even go on a personal strike because they think a scene makes them look bad or they don't think they got enough lines. Sometimes the budget runs low.

In one notorious case, Jamie Foxx refused to finish a location shoot in the Dominican Republic for the ending of the movie adaptation of Miami Vice. He had just won the Oscar for Ray and decided he didn't need to do anything he didn't feel like doing. To be fair, there had been gunfire on or near the set, so there was a question of safety. Having to rewrite the ending seems to have diminished the end product. I was disappointed because I like the world of Miami Vice, but I struggled a little with the casting of Colin Farrell as Crockett anyway.

I search for comparisons to my own creative efforts. I have many stories, essays, drawings, and paintings that I never finish. They are stuck in development hell. Some eventually get finished but many seem to be dead ends. I usually like the ones that get finished though.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Input Avalanche

Oculus Rift DK2
Source: Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons


I'm drowning in a sea of information. My work setup consists of three linked displays running off a single computer, and it frequently isn't enough. The nature of my work is such that to solve problems, I frequently need information from up to 5 different applications, if not more.

This type of complexity begs for automation as a solution. I'm uncertain what the exact solution will be, but suspect it involves virtual reality. I'm not aware of any electronic medical record companies working on this for business applications yet. So far, all effort seems to be focused on computer games and entertainment, but I suspect it will come for all businesses eventually. We'll dictate into a virtual reality display but probably still use a mouse or similar. Will it be available before I retire?

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Skiing



One of my hobbies is snowboarding, and it's very important to me in the long, snowy, cold winters of the high country. It's more than a hobby, it's an exercise regimen, both physical and mental. My personal psychology suffers if I can't get outdoors for more than a week. A gym or treadmill is insufficient for mental health.

The problem is that I hit my limit of risk with snowboarding on the intermediate ski trails. I won't be ready for a black diamond run anytime soon, and considering my age, that might mean never. My solution is to take up skiing. Skis are different from a snowboard in that your feet can move independently. On a snowboard your feet are bound to a single plank. Although there are many similarities between the two sports, control is very different.

I bought some ski boots a couple of weeks ago and rented skis today to try to remember how to ski. I've been skiing exactly twice before, one day in a group lesson, another day independently. To my relief, I seemed to pick up where I left off 5 years ago within a few minutes. Muscle memory is an amazing thing.

Unfortunately, I lack the muscle fitness so I tired fairly quickly. But I think I will continue with skiing, and I'm in the market for some forgiving, beginner-friendly, all mountain skis. It will keep me fit and occupied for a few more seasons, without having to move up into the truly dangerous terrain.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Suffocation



You take air for granted until it's taken away and you have to think about every breath. It's a different life after you have to use the rescue inhaler. It's like rebirth or something. I just finished reading this novel that involves theology and I can't resist thinking of an asthma attack as the act of an ancient, capricious god from the Greek pantheon.

Really though, it's just that I let the cat sleep on my bed last night. It's just allergies.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Insomnia

Rare night snow at my old house in Ringgold, Georgia, 2008 . . . and a wave of memories washes over me.


Basically, I never get a good night's sleep. I've been that way since about puberty, and it is so rare for me to sleep well that I can't imagine life where I wake up every day feeling rested and refreshed. I have no idea why I'm that way. I use caffeine, but these days only in relatively moderate amounts. I've had a couple of dentists tell me they suspect I have a sleep disorder, but I decided not to pursue that. Apparently you can tell by looking at someone's teeth.

The problem with going to doctors is that they try to doctor you, and inevitably there are side effects or inconveniences that seem equal or worse than the original issue. This is one of those situations. They have a solution for sleep apnea, if that's what it is, but I don't like the looks of it.

I don't want to have to spend every night hooked up to a steampunk device, have to clean it all the time, have to not move around the bed as much as I'm accustomed to. I can't say I'm a great patient.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Winter



Having made it beyond the election and Thanksgiving, the next big thing for me is the winter solstice. A more optimistic person might have said Christmas but I tend toward pessimism, particularly at this time of year.

I think of winter as The Long Dark (breaking one of my personal rules to not transform adjectives into nouns). I had my first snowboarding run of the year on Saturday. It helps to go outdoors and get some sunshine. Snowboarding is my usual pastime for winter, but getting out for a few turns on the weekend doesn't make up for the cold, short days.

There isn't much to do but endure through the next 4 months. I usually start feeling better around March, when the days get noticeably longer. January and February are the worst.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Martial Arts

Hapkido. I love the grimy ceiling. I learned in a studio/dojo not dissimilar in the mid 1980s. I have a wave of nostalgia.

I studied the Korean martial art Hapkido for about a year when I was a kid. This was immediately following the Karate Kid / Revenge of the Ninja movie craze. Every boy in America wanted to do martial arts. It was formative for me, because it exposed me to different ways of thinking and taught me how to start using my body in ways other than the instinctive. It taught me to think about movement, and to fight with intent.

I also needed to be hit and bounced a little. Mom had sheltered me too much and my Dad judged me to be destined to be a push-over. He judged everybody that way though, all but the meanest, whom he seemed to admire.

I would have continued but my parents balked at the expense and time required taking me to and from the dojo. I continued practicing without instruction for a little while, but eventually my interest wained, and I got in trouble for side kicking another kid who didn't know when to quit. I still remember several basic techniques.

I often wish I had continued, at least until I got a black belt. Hapkido is definitely one of the less showy, more practical martial arts, and is now favored by successful Mixed Martial Artists (MMA) at the professional level. The other discipline favored is called Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a bogus trade name in my opinion. There is nothing Brazilian about it. My sensei was also a 5th degree black belt in the original Japanese Jiu Jitsu, and was a huge advocate of it. Of course, he was trying to build a business so he wanted more students, but it just goes to show that guys were out there doing MMA before the term became mainstream.

I've been watching a lot of MMA lately, despite my misgivings from what we now know about brain injuries, and I'm having to resist the urge to get back into the martial arts. I know I'm too old for it, and I already have too many hobbies, but I also know that guys older than me sometimes get into it for a few years. I miss the discipline and focus on physical fitness.

It would probably be a mistake though.

The Flag



I feel like half of America no longer believes in freedom. Too many people have bought into the lie that equity is possible among a very large, diverse population, and see individual liberty as an obstacle to it. We can try to give everyone an equal chance to succeed, but we can't give everyone all the same stuff. That's tilting at windmills. The impossibility of enforcing equality was one of the most important lessons of the twentieth century.

Many societies tried and failed to use the power of government to level outcomes. It isn't viable, because people are not actually equal in potential, and trying too hard to achieve equality of outcome makes everyone unhappy. Nor did these efforts lead to equity. Instead, it merely shifted around the privilege from one group to a different group (high ranking civil servants). But many of our voters now are too young to remember that era, and as always, dishonest interpretations of history are being purveyed in our media and educational institutions.

The election finally settled out into what I consider the most stable configuration under the circumstances, but it is only delaying the resolution of the problems our country faces. I think I'm going to go ahead and use up my fuel and food stockpiles though. They don't have unlimited shelf lives and I think we will be coasting for a while, at least until the mid-term elections in 2022. The big issues are going to come back in 2024 and God help us then, but for now I'm going to burn the gasoline and figure out what I need to do to prepare for the future.

I haven't given up on the USA, nor am I willing to give up on the idea of individual freedom, and I'm going to keep flying my flag.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Fast Food

 

What is the point of these?

I realize fast food isn't haute cuisine but I can't understand how these chains keep messing up French fries. I think companies are always trying to differentiate themselves to the buying public. This causes them to reach too far to create a difference. I'm not a fan of the potato wedge things that come with a Wendy's breakfast combo. They aren't terrible but they would be better if they just had salt or maybe seasoned salt, instead they are obviously processed with a mildly annoying flavor. They aren't the worst though, that would be the curly fries from Arby's, which are atrocious, have a papery outside, and barely taste like potato.

They announced an In-N-Out Burger will be built on the busiest road in town and I won't go anywhere near it for the first 6 months. I'm sure traffic will be backed up onto the highway. I like In-N-Out but it's only about 10% better than McDonald's. People are such dummies.

Yes, I realize this blog post probably wasn't worth writing but sometimes you just need to ramble.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Wochenende

Getting ready for this . . .

It's the weekend (wochenende means weekend in German). Unfortunately I am on call for work, but I can usually still find plenty of time to relax or go adventuring. I can respond to calls with a cell phone and a laptop, so I will simply throw one in my backpack and go for a short hike at one of the places around Flagstaff. Though I can respond anywhere with cell signal, I dislike getting more than a mile from my car when on call.

The snow season is upon us and the ski resort opens this weekend, so I also need to spend some time on maintenance of my snowboard. I want to pick up some ski boots this year so I can start learning to ski this season. Snowboarding involves too much falling. I used to be extremely agile, but these days when I fall I just go over like a felled tree. I've been working on flexibility and upper body strength training to offset the issues.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Cargo Cult Programming

The Gods Must Be Crazy. 1915 Coke Bottle. Source: wikimedia

Many large enterprise software platforms were assembled from acquired components. There was no single architect nor a single architecture. The different pieces of the puzzle were designed by different programmers at different times and in different places. This means that a lot of code gets brought along in each new version that is possibly unnecessary. Nobody who knows how it works is still around in the company, but everybody is afraid to get rid of it, because they are afraid it will break something, so they just keep deploying it with future versions. We call this Cargo Cult Programming. The code contains artifacts that people keep using even though they don't understand how it works or even if it is necessary.

This makes for a nightmare of technical support. The details and design of the application appear idiosyncratic.

I get asked to implement new features and enhancements frequently and it becomes a search for a needle in a very large haystack to find the solution to a particular problem. And the documentation is typically dictionary-like. It explains what things are, but not how they work or how they fit together. There are no step-by-step examples showing how to implement a particular feature. At least that's the way it is in healthcare software.

And now you know how I spend much of my work day. One of the most valuable skills in IT is to be able to navigate the labyrinth of documentation to implement something that should be easy.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Bad Patient


I think this is from somewhere in the Cohutta Mountains in 2010, in Georgia or Tennessee. It has nothing to do with the rest of this post but I wish I was in a beautiful place like this right now, instead of stuck in the house.


I had to go for a COVID test last weekend. It turned out to be self-administered. You park in a designated parking place and they come out to your car. They expect you to swab your own tonsils.

How am I supposed to swab my own tonsils with no more than a small car mirror? No wonder the COVID tests have generally had high rates of false negatives. I understand administering such a test is risky to the healthcare workers because swabbing tonsils causes a gag reflex, but it seems like bad medical science to expect a patient to self-administer correctly. The test came back negative, but I'm not sure I'm 100% confident in that result.

 I hate being sick and I'm not a good patient. I'm grouchy and resentful. I do not take well to being stuck indoors. I'm disappointed to not be able to go running or bicycling. The sooner this is over with, the better.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Mess



I kind of made a mess of things again. I'm not sure I can clean up every bit of it, but hopefully there is some way to recover. I'm looking forward to getting outdoors again this weekend. Hopefully I will find a path through the brush.

Only so many more shopping days until Christmas.



Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Cold


It's been very cold the last few days. At least we got some precipitation. The national forest lifted a burn ban. I have to admit I'm ready to go back to the desert again already. I hate the driving but that depends on the direction. In Arizona, you are never far from the desert. I can be in a warmer climate in about 30 minutes.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Likes

Red Rock State Park, Arizona. So much better than being on social media.


On Facebook and Instagram, I enjoy getting likes. I don't experience narcissism, but there is something affirming about it, as if it confirms that what I'm posting is meaningful in some way. It fights imposter syndrome.

On Twitter, I worry when I start getting too many likes, and I mostly get them for replies containing cynicism or cutting humor. I'm not staging a "performance" like many users, but sometimes reply off the cuff, and the next thing you know it goes viral. I don't have that many followers, and I'm not trying to build a following.

After you observe the community and the company a while, it becomes clear that this is their business model. They manipulate their user base to promote controversy by hiding or promoting particular topics and particular accounts. They capriciously ban some average accounts on the basis of political or business opinions, yet allow other accounts that have extensive histories of promoting violence, social division, or other types of extremism. These are often popular and I assume Twitter makes more advertising revenue from them. Twitter has shown they can't be trusted.

I opened a Parler account a few months ago and hope for it to develop into a better community. Right at the moment, it is more free, but still somewhat toxic. One of these days I'm going to give up social media entirely and go back to spending more time reading books.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Is it over?

 

Sedona

I feel like everyone in the country was waiting for the Associated Press to declare a winner. The outcome appears to be divided government, which will probably lead to inaction. Under the circumstances, I'll take it.

I'm not sure this is over though. I think we can still expect armed demonstrations, street violence over every police shooting of a black man, and probably acts of right wing terrorism.

I still feel relief though.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Silicone for Baking

I know it's a bit lumpy but I was forcing it to fit the baking mat. Also, there is a first time for everything.


I bought ready-to-roll pizza dough at the local Safeway and made a pizza. It was ok, but the anchovies were a mistake, or at least I didn't handle them correctly. I tested out my new silicone rolling pin and baking mat. I recommend silicone for baking. Easy to use. Easy to clean.

I guess my next step is to make my own dough from scratch. I'll get around to it someday.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Book Review: Divided We Fall, by David French

 


I just finished David French's Divided We Fall, a summary of the current divisions within the political culture of the United States. French is a Harvard educated lawyer who is one of the "Never Trump" Republicans. A conservative, he dislikes the current trend of both parties. Key topics include the Great Sort (citizens relocating to areas with similar politics to their own), and the echo chambers that are created in social media.

French argues for greater pluralism at a time when politically minded people are seeking to dominate opposing groups. Things may moderate with time but there are scenarios where increasingly, tribal groups are concentrated in the same geographical regions, and that could lead to the breakup of the country.

In the end, the author calls for a return to local and state government, which he terms stronger Federalism. He thinks the tribes inhabiting a particular state should be allowed to govern with public policy that suits them, rather than policy imposed by a central government. I think that would work, but I don't think it will happen. Democrats want abortion to be legal everywhere, not just in Democratic states. Republicans want it illegal everywhere, not just in majority Republican states. Both seek to dominate the issue with the power of the Federal government. This pursuit of sweeping central authority is trending completely the opposite of French's proposed Federalism.

Finally he makes a plea to return to religion, as he believes that tribal association has come to replace religion in American life, and that our system can't function without religious morality. French sees everything through the lens of his christian faith.

The book is successful in presenting an alternative to the path the country is going down right now. I recommend it, though it's a very contemporary book, and may not read as well in a few months.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Anticipation

Brace yourselves, winter is coming. But there are worse things than winter.


The country is in a frenzy of anticipation. It's the election, of course. The tone was positive online for a couple of days but seems to be turning negative already. I finished my last minute stockpiling and prepping yesterday. I hope to need none of these things but it's better to have them than not.

Whatever the outcome, I hope we know it on election night, but I'm prepared for not knowing for a few weeks. Both sides are obviously primed for litigation in the event of a close vote.

I'm determined to not dread it too much but also be prepared for the worst.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Clear Airways



I have chronic asthma. Humanity has COVID-19, a respiratory disease that causes acute asthma and pneumonia.

I try to never descend into fear, and with my life experience, I have a pretty good handle on when fear is justified. There is such a thing as rational fear, but mostly we should not indulge the emotion. In this era of a deadly respiratory virus, I struggled with fear for the first couple of months, but then I realized that I was still going, and as long as I maintain discipline, I should still be going this time next year.

I went for a run the other night, and it felt great. I'm more of a sprinter, so my distance running is slow, but I'm in good enough shape to knock off three miles. I feel gratitude that I'm still breathing deeply, and that I'm still able to run a 5k at 7000 feet above sea level. The fitness also prepares me for any future respiratory infection.

I'm very thankful for clear airways. In spite of everything that has happened in this evil year, I retain optimism.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Disunited States

E. Pluribus Dis-Unum. Public Domain image obtained via Wikipedia.


I'm reading a very current book on the status of division in the United States. It reminds me of the historical debate over the correct verb, singular or plural: "The United States is . . ." versus "The United States are . . ." For my lifetime, the United States has been considered a single country or nation. I now see the distinct possibility that the states may gain a larger measure of autonomy, or form new federations, and that we may be referred to in the plural.

I love this country, or at least what it once was, and I don't want to see it breakup. But I'm also resigned to the fact that there are over 300 million people in the US, and it is not up to me alone.

Desert Season

Devil's Bridge, West Sedona.


It's warming up a little after our first (very light) snowfall, but overall the temps are trending cooler in the deserts. My heart lives in the high country but I'm looking forward to desert hiking. We have several deserts around, but the closest are the high deserts of the Colorado Plateau and below the Mogollon Rim. My most frequent area to hike is in the red rock country around Sedona, Arizona, but I try to get in at least one hike or mountain bike ride in the Sonoran Desert, and usually at least one hike in the Grand Canyon (which is considered a desert below the rim). There is also a little bit of hiking in the Painted Desert atop the plateau, but relatively few opportunities since much of the land is on the Navajo Nation.

I'm ready for a desert hike sometime in the next couple of weeks!

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Glow

 Look at this weird thing:

Why is there a greenhouse in my garage? To keep the cats from eating the plants. Otherwise I would just use shelves.

I've taken up indoor gardening for the winter. We got our first snow yesterday, so I had to bring in the plants. I ordered this setup off Amazon, along with multi spectrum grow lights. It makes my garage look like a Jurassic Park laboratory. We'll see if I kill the plants. I don't have much of a green thumb.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Travel Conundrum

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, 2011.
I love travel. In this pandemic, it's difficult to make the decision to go. I haven't seen my family in almost a year and I'm worried to visit them, for fear of bringing the disease upon them.

On the other hand, I heard a BBC report a couple of weeks ago that the airline industry studied the transmission of Coronavirus Disease and found that only 44 cases could be tracked to air travel since a mask mandate was imposed. That's encouraging but my skeptical mind distrusts a study that was funded by the airlines. Consulting experts are often paid to issue favorable findings. Also, the number of passengers was something like 2 billion. How could they possibly track 2 billion people?

If I do not visit my mother around Christmas, it will be the longest either of us has ever gone without seeing each other. It's my fault for moving across the continent, but eventually I had to live my own life.

For now, I decide to not decide, and hope for a vaccine early next year.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Clear Mind Through Running

 

The Arizona Trail in Buffalo Park. My favorite place to run.

I lack motivation for running right now, even though I'm trying to lose weight. It's because the days are shorter, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but I think the looming threat of public disorder is contributing. Civil conflict brings me down.

I forced myself out night before last and ran 2.3 miles, a short distance for me, but since I had been putting it off, I was well rested and ran with complete comfort. Maybe I don't do rest and recovery properly?

It was nice to be able to think about nothing while I was running, as opposed to having to silently tell myself not to stop over and over again. When you get that runner's high going, it brings a clear state of mind with it.

One of my favorite places to be.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Stealth

Cplbeaudoin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


When I was about 11 or 12, like many 80s kids, I was obsessed with ninjitsu, Navy SEALs, and camouflage. I had an entire outfit of cammo. I arranged a "hunt" with the only two boys in the neighborhood. This included my lifelong friend Scott, and another kid named Jeremy. We went back to the woods along perennial Pipe Creek, and agreed to boundaries, within which we would take turns hiding and trying to find each other.

What I achieved amazed me. I had head to foot cammo, with black, mud-spattered tennis shoes, a cammo baseball cap, and even a cammo bandana around my neck and face, with a ninja ski mask underneath. We took turns hiding. I assume it was a Saturday, although it might have been summer and we were off school, I can't remember now.

Scott was easy to find. Jeremy hid along a collapsed section of stream bank, rather than trying to rely upon his incomplete camouflage. Scott found him. I simply chose a gentle slope, covered with forbes and ferns, and lay there quietly, with my face concealed except my eyes, which I closed to slits. Both Scott and Jeremy walked around for several minutes and looked carefully over every inch of ground. I held my breath, squeezed my eyes almost entirely shut, and they looked right past me. I finally had to reveal myself.

During that period of my life, I read many Louis L'amour novels. His descriptions of tracking and how to move quietly through the woods to avoid detection and without startling wildlife captured my imagination. I first practiced walking quietly and slowly, then learned how to move faster with reduced noise. It was easier when I was lighter weight, but I still remember how to do it.

I've always been good at stealth. Some people might call it sneakiness. I frequently startle other hikers out on the trails. This is what we call the law of unintended consequences. Oops.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Ping

One of my pet peeves is when these city slickers out on the trail with very expensive technical clothing and gear look down on others because they didn't spend $1500 on their kit. Said city slickers maybe take a couple of vacations a year and otherwise hike once a month. Nonetheless, they took classes at an REI and read some books and now believe they are hot shot hikers.


For a number of years I hiked in the Ping brand golf hat above that I bought at a course in Tennessee one time when I forgot to bring a hat. I sunburn easily so I picked up whatever was available in the pro shop. That became my sweaty, outdoor hat. Many hiking friends and strangers on the trail ridiculed it, as if wearing a golf hat while hiking was some type of bumbling mistake indicating a lack of experience.

I've been hiking since I was 3 or 4 years old. I grew up in the country, roaming where there were neither trails nor roads, wading through creeks and thickets, pulling off the cockleburs and scraping off the mud with sticks. I taught myself to track and stalk.

No, city hiker, your Arc'teryx thousand dollar jacket does not indicate superiority of experience or fitness. It just means that you are an unusually foolish person who judges a book by its cover. That hat accompanied me on dozens of outdoor expeditions and was perfectly functional for hiking, as anyone who spent their entire life hiking and exploring the outdoors could tell you.

I finally had to get rid of it, but I don't regret wearing it on hikes. You don't need the correct name brand for adventure.

Poseurs.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Misadventure

Verde River, somewhere between White Bridge and the Clear Creek access point.

I took a five day weekend, Thursday through Monday. It's a long enough break to forget what is going on at work. Unfortunately the weekend didn't go exactly as hoped. Our kayak trip on a new-to-us section of the Verde River ran a little longer than I expected. The water level was barely adequate. Everybody was relieved to see the takeout. I think the next time I go back, I will look for more flow, both to avoid rocks and to speed up the trip. Even a difference of a half mile per hour makes a big difference on a 5 mile float trip.
Waterfowl in the Kachina Wetlands, with Woody Mountain in the distance.

The next thing that happened was that I apparently dropped my eye glasses somewhere on a 2.5 mile hike at the Kachina Wetlands. This necessitated losing a morning to an eye doctor appointment. Now I'll have to wait two weeks for up-to-date eye glasses. I'm using outdated prescription glasses in the interim.

When you like adventure, you have to be prepared for the inevitable misadventure that goes with it.

Still worth it though. We got in two and half hikes and a paddling trip. Not bad.
Mount Elden from a hot, dusty Fat Man's Loop trail. Is that the "slabs" route? This was the last hike of the weekend.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Glory


It's still smoky in Northern Arizona, but that didn't stop us from enjoying the magnificence of autumn in the high country.

M took me to a "secret" spot to view the fall colors on the San Francisco Peaks. We were alone on the trail at a time when many thousands of people flooded the Arizona high country to see the fall leaf change. The view from the high point brought me a sense of euphoria and glory.

Life is still good.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Patina


That week was too long. I was very productive at work but there were too many tasks required. Even though my job is a sitting job, I sometimes find myself exhausted. It isn't a physical exhaustion. It's an exhaustion of the mind. The brain needs rest too.

When I was younger, I felt a sharp inquisitiveness about work. I wanted to learn everything about technology. I dreamed of success as a leader or a software entrepreneur. Now I feel like I have a rusted coating on the outside. It looks good. It looks like experience. But the rust makes it difficult to move and think as quickly. It's difficult to get new information to the inside.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Intermittent Feasting

We went hiking last weekend. There weren't enough aspens but the ones we had were beautiful.

I've been "intermittent fasting" to control my weight. We used to call it "skipping a meal," and were criticized. Now it's trendy and called by a medicalized term. The problem with it is that intermittent fasting usually causes me to feast when I break the fast. It's intermittent feasting.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Relocation

The Inner Basin of the San Francisco Peaks, September 24, 2017.


Back around 2011, when I said I was looking for jobs out-of-state, my ex-girlfriend told me that I "couldn't move away from my problems." My retort was that I didn't expect to move away from my problems. I just wanted to move someplace with a landscape that I wanted to look at every day, and have new places to explore. 

It's certainly true that you either bring happiness or unhappiness with you wherever you go. Some days I'm happy, and that comes mostly from my current life. Other days I'm unhappy, and it mostly comes from past experiences. Ongoing stress can cause unhappiness, but only by sending me back into unhappy memories.

 Either way, a beautiful landscape helps to get back into happiness.

More inspiration arrived over the last couple of days for a new novel, but it's fragmentary. I must fit the pieces together before I start writing.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Celebrity Sightings


I'm creating this list as a permanent record and will update it as necessary.

I've seen a few celebrities in person over the years. Most people have. I do not engage in celebrity worship, because celebrities are still human and flawed, and worshiping other humans inevitably leads to disappointment. Still, it's mildly exciting to see a celebrity in person and I can't resist thinking about the various sighting sometimes, and decided to make a list of celebrities I have seen in person. 

I question how to define celebrity, since some local politicians and radio station DJs are considered celebrities. I wouldn't include them, but I probably would include a television personality from a major market. When I lived in Chattanooga, I saw several reporters around, but never the anchors, and Chattanooga is a small television market. I wouldn't count the reporters but I would count the anchors.

I'm also counting athletes if I have seen them outside of a sporting event. I've been to too many live sporting events to count all the athlete-celebrities I have seen in a stadium or arena.

I'm unsure how to rank these by importance and do not have a clear timeline in my head, so I'm just going to make an ad hoc list.


The List

George W. Bush - seen when he visited the hospital where I worked. He was president at the time.

Sting (Rock Star) - seen at a concert. This was after he broke up The Police for his very lucrative solo career.

Bryan Adams (Rock Star) - seen at a concert.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (NASCAR driver) - seen leaving the Lookout Valley Walmart, Tennessee, in his Lexus SUV, confirmed by vanity license plate "ERNHRDT."

Lynyrd Skynyrd (Rock Band) - but particularly the lead vocalist at the time, Johnny Van Zant. They were making a public appearance at a Walmart in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where I was living at the time. I went in to pick up some nylon rope to use with my kayak. I was amazed at the line of people waiting to see them that wound out the front doors and around the parking lot. I walked up behind them while browsing through the sporting goods section, where the band was sitting at an elevated table and Johnny looked back at me nervously, but he could see I was only shopping and we nodded at each other. I suppose someone like Johnny has to worry about stalking. It was a strange but memorable moment. I admit to being annoyed at the mobs when I was just trying to shop.

Lance Armstrong (professional bicyclist) - seen at a steakhouse in Durango, Colorado. I wrote a previous blog post about this but at the time thought it couldn't be him, because he was too bulky, and guessed that it was another rider who looked similar (can't remember the name now) but was bigger. I later found out that Lance had been strength training (this was after he retired from professional cycling, and after the scandals) and saw a couple photos of him bulked up. He was wearing a Specialized baseball hat, and after we made eye contact, turned it around so that the brand couldn't be seen. Specialized was his last sponsor and a brand with which he was closely associated. I'm now sure it was him, especially considering the prominent ears, a feature which we share, lol.

Martha McSally (US Senator) - I saw her at a park the other day when I was running. I did not speak to her but I think she realized she had been recognized. She was wearing a COVID mask but I'm sure it was her because she was driving a distinctive dark-blue Dodge Ram pickup truck that was featured in one of her TV campaign commercials. Also, she is reported to have a residence in Flagstaff.

Tommy Lasorda (MLB manager, two time World Series winner) - I'm counting him because I saw him sitting in the stands at a minor league baseball game, where fans lined up by the dozen to meet him and get his signature. I'd also seen him managing before his retirement, but that doesn't count since he was down on the playing field.

The Brown Family (from the TV show "Sister Wives" that covers their Mormon polygamous relationship).  - They lived two houses over from me for about a year. They eventually moved out after building a "compound" in Baderville, several miles outside of Flagstaff.

Mo Farah (Olympic gold medalist runner) - seen running a couple of places around town, but particularly on Woody Mountain Road, near my house. There is something amazing about being out for a run and seeing an Olympic medalist running in the opposite direction. Woody Mountain Road is world-famous in the running community.

Aliphene Tuliamuk (Olympic marathon runner) - winner of the 2020 US Olympic Trials at the marathon distance, and therefore the top runner on the Olympic Team for that event. I've seen her around town running on several occasions.

Molly Seidel (Olympic marathon runner) - second place at the 2020 US Olympic Trials, and therefore on the team. She stayed in a "runner house" on my street recently, about 4 houses down, apparently altitude training for the London Marathon. I literally saw her as I was jogging down my own street. Also: https://www.espn.com/olympics/story/_/page/Going-September252020/how-olympic-marathoner-molly-seidel-found-way-run-again

Kellyn Taylor (professional marathon runner) - the 8th fastest US woman at the marathon distance in history. I've seen her out running and also outside my office at work. The hospital hosts regional continuing education for firefighters and paramedics in addition to our own healthcare employees, and Kellyn is a trained firefighter. The education offices are in the same building.

Glenn Robinson (NBA player) - I worked at a supermarket in West Lafayette, Indiana for a few months in college (my first degree - Purdue) and bagged his groceries a couple of times. Obviously that was when he was still in college.

Gene Keady (NCAA college basketball coach) - I saw him many times outside of sporting events. Keady is not a household name but was a top coach for over 2 decades, winning multiple conference championships, though never getting a Final Four. He was famous for scowling and looking angry all the time. Off the court he was a friendly person who clearly liked people and loved being a local celebrity.

Joe Jacobi (Olympic gold medalist) - Joe is a whitewater paddling athlete who lives near the Ocoee River in Tennessee, where he made his home after the end of his athletic career. I was on a first name basis with him for a while, as we both liked to hang out at the same surfing wave, where he was teaching his daughter to paddle. I saw him many times, though I doubt he would remember me, since whitewater kayakers are usually decked out in distinctive gear and helmets, and Joe knows a lot of people.

Jean Kirkpatrick (US Ambassador to the United Nations) - I attended a free lecture at Purdue, featuring Ambassador Kirkpatrick after her retirement. She had a combative view of foreign policy.

Jim Walmsley (Professional ultra mountain trail runner) - one of the most celebrated ultra-marathon runners. He lives in Flagstaff and is around a lot. Jim holds the record for a rim-to-rim run in the Grand Canyon.

Rob Krar (professional ultra mountain trail runner) - another very successful ultra-marathon runner, though he is less outgoing and self-promoting that Walmsley. He always waves or nods at fellow runners.

Herbert C. Brown (Nobel Prize for Chemistry) - I spoke to him in the corridors a couple of times when I was at Purdue, in the building that was named after him. He was a friendly fellow who liked students and greeted us with an upper class English accent. Although he is not generally famous, I'm including him because his legacy will last forever. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_C._Brown


Other than the list here, I've been around various CEOs and other corporate officers, at least one two-star general that I can think of, and various local politicians, but I don't consider them notable, since most are only famous because of rank. Probably there are other celebrity sighting that I have forgotten because I didn't care that much about it.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Despair

This is how I feel today.


Not my best Friday. Again I find myself battling despair. The cause is a combination of work stress, the COVID pandemic, and the collective, societal anxiety of the upcoming general election.

For my entire life, I've seen people in a constant state of panic over politics and for the most part I resisted it, and even ridiculed it at times. After a few elections you start to realize that some eras are better than others, but usually your day-to-day doesn't change much.

I don't think that this time. I've observed politics for a long time and read many books on the history of human conflict. I predict we are in for a hell period and it is my suspicion that things are not going to be alright this time. It's just a question of when everything goes to hell, not if. If Trump wins, it goes to hell immediately. If Biden wins, there will be a delay of months to a few years, and then it goes to hell.

Either way it's going to be hell. I'm engaged in prepping right now, another activity that I have ridiculed in the past.

Fortune favors the prepared.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Books

These are the books I have yet to read. The stack on the left is active. I've never been a fan of Bill O'Reilly but strangely people keep giving his books to me. This will be the third one I've read. I'm annotating Stephen King's On Writing with pencil and have plans to write a second novel soon.

I have always been an avid reader, but my page rate has gone down over the last year or two and I keep buying books. I now have so many queued up that I shouldn't buy anymore, but virtually every time I order things online, I get more books. The stack above doesn't even include some nonfiction books that I bookmarked years ago and put back on the shelf, with plans to finish someday.

I don't make resolutions for New Year's Day because I think you should immediately do things that should be done. Reading more pages per day is a September 24th resolution. I need to reduce the stack.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Development



I attended a public Zoom meeting a couple of evenings ago regarding housing development in neighborhood. One thing that is clear is that it isn't possible to build a new housing development without making at least some people unhappy. The other thing that is clear is that most people are oblivious of planning issues until the plan has already been carried out. There were only 30 households on the call, out of what, 200? Probably much more than that were invited.

Soon the neighborhood will be teaming with cars, and the developers already know that the highway will probably have to be widened to 4 or 5 lanes for another couple of miles. Short of a large, organized movement, it's difficult to see how anyone could stop the development from going through, although it must be that the developer was worried enough to hold the meeting. I think that's because they need a zoning change to build out their design.

The main issue I have with it is that all of the new houses are going to be rentals. It isn't an apartment complex, but it might as well be. I'm also a little concerned about their proposed switch of zoning to high density residential. It seems to me that once the zoning is changed, they could simply revise their plan and build apartment buildings. I'm the suspicious type and I wonder, is that the real plan?

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Equinox

I impatiently await the changing of the aspens into this golden spectacle.


Autumn is one of the most beautiful words in the English language, but you have to pronounce the n. Autumnal equinox is a lyrical term. Today is fall, but autumn sounds better to me.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Garmin

 


After much shopping, I decided to get a Garmin Forerunner 945 GPS watch. It has the advantage that the GPS works in the absence of cell coverage. Although it is a triathlon watch, and I am not a triathlete, it does everything I need. It also allows me to go running without having to carry my large, heavy iPhone, though I have yet to convince myself to go without ID.

I took the day off and went for a bicycle ride. The Garmin watch declared my workout to be "Unproductive." How insulting, I thought. Then I looked it up, and to Garmin the term means that no increase in fitness was achieved. I realize they make the products for competitive people, but I specifically had in mind a "maintenance" ride. I can't see how that is unproductive. Maintaining fitness is more important to me than increasing, but then I've never been a competitive person.

It also integrates with Strava automatically.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Paper Cables

Rare Flagstaff duck pond from last evening's run. I made a wrong turn and ended up wandering around. It happens.

Last night I dreamed that I was asked to help setup for a company meeting. It was being held in an open air theater and the stage was backed by cliffs that looked uncomfortably like a scene from the movie Midsommer. They were going to have DJs and I was asked to help connect their laptops to the sound system. The "cables" they had were bare copper wires lying atop strips of lined paper (like from a notebook), all held together with transparent tape.

I said, "What the hell? Real cables aren't that expensive."

The other guy said, "Fire hazard," or similar.

The CEO of the company stood nearby watching.

Dreams are weird. This one obviously had something to do with work, which has been on my mind a lot recently.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Deadline

This cat is not dead. In fact, she was enjoying herself thoroughly. I'm feeling a little dead on this Monday, though.

 

My stress level is a little high right now. It's almost entirely down to work, where I have learned to hate the word deadline. It's a little too graphic, if you think about it.

In point of fact the deadline was self-imposed, but I like to be aggressive with a big project. Sometimes you miss . . .

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Mexican Pizza

The Taco Bell Mexican Pizza, in all its glorious, yet disgraceful simplicity.


Taco Bell canceled the Mexican Pizza. It's a huge disappointment. It isn't gourmet cuisine, but these things were affordable and got me through the second half of the 90s and the early 2000s, until I could afford better. I had to get one more for the memories. I guess I should probably work on a home recipe. They aren't complicated.

Friday, September 11, 2020

9/11 and Evil

Meme shamelessly stolen from the internet.

It's September 11th, and once again there are people who, rather than marking the tragedy and loss of life of the attacks in 2001, take the opportunity to denounce the flaws of American society. The claim is that the United States is a fundamentally evil country, and that the only way to discuss it is in terms of the things that have gone wrong with it, or the evils that have occurred in its history. This, of course, is meant to imply that the 9/11 attackers were morally correct, and that the people who died deserved it.

It is important to not deceive yourself that American society is 100% good, but if you believe the only way to consider it is to think of the bad things, then you do not understand the history of the United States, nor yourself. Thinking that way does not make you a good person. It really means that deep down inside you are a negative person.

There is also intellectual folly in thinking that other cultures are morally superior, especially if history paints them as victims of American culture. There are no cultures that are exempt from evils that can be identified in their history. If you are not aware of that, then you need to read more. The most dangerous people are not those who have read little, nor is it those who have read much. It's the in between people, who have read only a moderate amount, or avoided reading sources they suspect they will disagree with. An in between knowledge of history is worse than no knowledge of history.

We make our society better by thinking critically about it, yes, in the sense of critique, but critique also includes positive observations. Positivity includes celebration of successes and appreciation of opportunities. Everyone knows positive thinking is the key to improvement. Countless successful people have said it and published it in countless autobiographies and other commentaries. If you've gotten anywhere in life, you should know that only happened because you were thinking and acting positively and proactively. So why are you still thinking negatively about history? Fixation on complaint or grievance rather than opportunity says nothing good about you to others, and it isn't good for your own happiness. In my opinion, the perpetuation of historical grievance is one of the greatest evils. Stop doing it.

People who insist on speaking and writing only in a negative way about American history (or any other culture), deep down, are unbalanced, and are prone not to fighting evil, but to committing acts of evil in the attempt to settle old wrongs for which there are no living victims. We see this manifested in the streets of American cities right now. Having known many such people, I kind of get the feeling that they know this about themselves. That's why they think the way they think. I dislike calling people evil and prefer instead to say that actions are evil. But if you keep doing it over and over again, and that defines your world view? Evil is as evil does.

Habits

 

The San Francisco Peaks, Arizona, in a haze of smoke from burning California forests.

Over the last 20 years I have occasionally ordered things online, but in the era of COVID-19, I think I have to admit to myself that it's become something of an addiction. This dovetails with disposable income. It reminds me of a couple of lines from a Faith No More song:

Sense of security

My pockets jingling

Midlife crisis

I think my midlife crisis already came and went early but I find myself wondering what I'm doing ordering yet more stuff. I have disposable income but it's not like I'm wealthy. Probably I should stop ordering so much stuff. Still, at least half of it is books, and my value system supports that, and at least they don't take up that much space.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Overuse: Chaos in the National Forests

This was the best view of the Canyon of the West Fork of Oak Creek that I could get to easily via bicycle. In the distance are the Black Hills or possibly the Bradshaw Mountains. There was a spot with a sweeping vista from a cliff but a group had setup an elaborate camp all along it and I didn't feel comfortable approaching. Some people are unfriendly about such situations, especially in the particularly remote part of the forest along the canyon. Only the hardiest campers seeking solitude would have driven that far back into the forest.

I used to want more people to utilize public lands and enjoy the outdoors because I thought it was a generally beneficial thing for public welfare and would recruit new advocates for land preservation. I don't think that anymore. One of the things that changed is the population of the country, especially in the western United States, where there are now many more people than when I formed that opinion. It's a question of proportionality. There are too many people for the uses that are available.

I went for a mountain bike ride on what I hoped would have been a reasonably quiet road to find a view of the nearby canyon of the West Fork of Oak Creek, along the Mogollon Rim, in Coconino National Forest. What I found instead were many huge encampments with hundreds of vehicles, and I presume thousands of people. The main road, despite being a narrow, gravel forest road, featured traffic to rival two lane state highways.

Under current law, everyone has a right to be there. In some areas the US Forest Service limits access with a permit system, but I think some uses should be banned first. In particular, the all terrain vehicles are a problem. What I observed was drivers of "dune buggy" type ATVs racing back and forth on the main gravel road. At first I thought they were on their way to and from the more rugged side roads, but soon it became clear they were simply doing laps on the smoothest, fastest road available. Most had no interest in the side "jeep" roads. I know this because I eventually headed down the intended spur that goes along the canyon, and the ATVs all but disappeared. People own those things specifically for racing along high quality gravel roads.

This is incompatible with almost every other conceivable use for National Forests. The vehicles violate the speed limit, and this is obviously the primary intent of the drivers. They are a hazard to other types of vehicles who use the roads as transportation routes to come and go from destinations, they present extreme hazards to pedestrians and wildlife, make a disproportionate noise compared to other vehicles, and seem to have little or no pollution control devices. You can tell from the smell of the exhaust. They also contribute to erosion and increase silty runoff into streams. The drivers are also a hazard to themselves. Flagstaff Medical Center reported the busiest trauma weekend in the history of the organization and physicians attributed it to ATVs. This uses up first responder time and resources and takes up the resources of medical facilities in the midst of a pandemic.

The drivers also seem to have bad judgment if they are afraid to go on the more rugged side roads, which is a use for an ATV that I can appreciate. They seem to not realize that racing fast on loose gravel is probably equally or more dangerous than riding a rough road, and indeed there are accidents. All this occurs on roads with a 30 mile per hour speed limit.

Since ATV drivers seem to not be responsible users of the national forests, I'd like to see ATVs banned from most forest roads and possibly banned completely from all US Forest Service property. They can go on Bureau of Land Management lands or private property instead.

Other irresponsible behaviors I saw: a guy walking around in tall, dry grass, smoking a cigarette, people playing extremely loud music, and evidence of littering.

Unfortunately it was unusually hot last weekend and it's apparent that many people who camp in the high country simply want to be outdoors without burning alive, so they have taken up camping. But they aren't in the forest for its natural beauty, hunting resources, bird watching, or other outdoor activities  They are merely there to setup an outdoor party location where it isn't too hot. I think it has been established that this type of use has been increased by the COVID-19 crisis.

I don't entirely blame people for wanting to get away from 115 degree urban areas, but I also saw large groups of people sitting and standing close together and not using masks. If there is a breeze, this may be ok, but in still air it is as dangerous as being indoors in a crowd without a mask. Many of the groups (and vehicles) were blasting loud music. I also wonder about disposal of human waste. This type of dispersed camping use is completely legal and should be, though the loud music is uncalled for. But I find myself in despair over behavior that shows a lack of education and a general disregard for the solitude of the forest.

There are too many tyros in the national forests this year. I pray things improve in the near future, but considering the unending growth of the population of North America, my expectations are low.