Wednesday, September 30, 2020


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:

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.

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


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


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


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


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



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


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.



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.

Saturday, September 5, 2020


This is the best "filled" type omelet that I've ever prepared. I still didn't have the courage to flip it in the air but I managed to get it to hold together.

The filling is a mango pico de gallo that I picked up from Safeway (sautéed).

white onion


green pepper (mild)



black pepper

cayenne powder

vegetable oil

cooking spray

Thursday, September 3, 2020


Aspen Loop, San Francisco Peaks. October 2019.

One of the good things about living in the high country is that we have four definitive seasons. In the hot parts of Arizona, they have the moderate season, and then the season when being outdoors too long means death.

I'm always torn about it though, because spring, fall, and summer are always happy, comfortable times when the vast forests and prairies can be enjoyed. Winter is a little more oppressive. I snowboard to keep me from falling into a gloom that can arise from being stuck indoors with short days, but it isn't the same. If I want to get outside the way I like, I have to drive at least 45 minutes or so out to the desert. But at least I have that option.

We are approaching Autumn, which is beautiful in Flagstaff. The aspens change to gold and reddish-gold, and the other deciduous species in the canyons and ravines change to a variety of colors. It's a bittersweet season though, since it is the harbinger of cold, short days, and deep snows.

But I still look forward to enjoying it while it is here. Especially since it is hot today.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020


It's very windy today and this was nearly the only leaf to hold still long enough for a photo. Small flocks of leaves where swept back and forth on the street and into corners therefore to swirl about in small cyclonic patters.

The year keeps flying by even though at times it has seemed the longest year in history. And now we have reached the end of summer. It is a time for planning for the winter. My plans are about half completed.

In the meantime, I'm very busy with work.

I look forward to the leaves changing. The mornings are already brisk and the days noticeably shorter.

Earth, Wind & Fire - September