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I am in this transition period where I own two off-road vehicles at the same time.

I thought I’d arrange them in the driveway for a one-time picture together, before the old one leaves.

2021 on the left, 1992 on the right.

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A few weeks ago I hiked in to visit Devin in the California Conservation Corp camp in Yosemite. Here is my report for reference.

When Devin went out in April, he basically mothballed his truck, closed his apartment, and as part of that had all his mail forwarded to me.

I scanned his mail for urgent stuff, paid any bills that might need taking care of, and collected all the letters in one file. When I hiked out, I brought all his mail with me. It was a small bundle of maybe 20 letters or so. It probably weighed half a pound, and as a backpacker who counts every ounce, it was substantial.

We sat around the campfire when he opened the various letters, saved those that needed saving, crumpled up those that could be burned and threw them into the fire pit.

I noticed that he kept tearing off the windows of the envelopes, where the addresses show, and stacked them on the log next to him. Then he burned the rest of the envelopes.

After he’d accumulated about 10 of those, I became puzzled and asked why he was doing that.

He said that one of their rules was not to burn plastic, and these envelope windows were plastic. So rather than throwing them into the fire, he separated them from the envelopes, collected them and put them in with all the other plastic trash to be packed out by mule train every Tuesday.

Now mind you, we’re 8,500 feet up in the mountains of Yosemite. The next hiker may be several miles away. The next road is four miles down the mountain. But the conservationist didn’t burn the little envelope windows in order to keep our air clean.

That’s mail call with a conservationist!

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Here is an enlightening picture of protestors in Science Hill, Kentucky.

Let them breate. We will pool are kids out of school so they don’t learn readn and writn and ritmatic.

Are Kids, Are Choice.

I wonder how the feel about Are Bodies, Are Choice when talking about abortion and contraception?

This is a little bit of evidence of the progressive dumbing down of America.

People want a choice about a cloth in front of a child’s mouth. But by exercising that choice, they are willing to expose their children, their teachers, and themselves to unfettered spread of a deadly virus, and to prolong the pandemic, and to help the virus mutate further.

But of course, the same person that can’t spell Are Choice is probably challenging Dr. Fauci and his recommendations, based on something they read on Facebook.

The virus does not care. It kills a substantial percentage of those that get infected, it leaves massive long-term effects for many of those who survive, and it creates massive hospital bills that most people can’t afford.

Good luck with Are Kids, Are Choice in Science Hill, Kentucky – oh the irony.

 

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This photograph of earth from space shows the planet from a very unusual perspective.

Obviously, it illustrates that we’re a water world.

It also shows that literally and entire half of the globe is Pacific Ocean.

Hawaii is known as one of the most remote island chains in the world, with the most distance to any land anywhere. This is visible here.

California is at the top (see me there?) and the entire west coast of North and South America span the upper third of the globe.

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Richard Branson  took the first ride to space today in the spaceship he dreamed up, designed and built – over decades. It’s a phenomenal achievement for a private individual, and it celebrates human ingenuity, perseverance, drive and creativity.

In the early morning, at 3:00am, Musk showed up at Branson’s house to wish him well. Branson tweeted this.

As I read  the responses, I was astonished that there were quite a few adversarial ones. I posted a few here with my own comments.

Red talks about the “age of extreme greed” presumably accusing Branson, attributing his success to greed. There is so much wrong with this tweet.

  1. Who decides what is pointless as a task to spend one’s time on. I wonder what hobbies Red has that are less pointless.
  2. Branson is a private citizen who opened a record store in England when he was a young man. He called it Virgin Records, and eventually built an airline and now a space tourism company – from scratch. I wonder what Red has accomplished in his life that we can all read about?
  3. I wonder what infrastructure systems are failing, and how fixing those is somehow Branson’s responsibility?

Then I saw Natasha’s post below:

She is worried about the destruction of the world, and questions Branson and Musk about what they contributed to the world. Well, Musk probably has made more changes to our current world than almost anyone, perhaps except Steve Jobs. He has built a car company from scratch, and forced every major automaker in the world to start producing electric vehicles. Then he started a rocket company and revolutionized how America sends humans into space,  and in the process saved billions of taxpayer funds by drastically reducing costs. Musk came to Canada with a single suitcase in the early 1990ies and one of his first jobs was shoveling out a sewer line, standing knee-deep in shit. In 1995, he arrived in California, got enrolled at Stanford and then dropped out to start a software company. I wonder what Natasha’s credentials are, what she has done to save the world, and how it compares to the records of Branson and Musk.

Hmm, private citizens can spend their money on whatever they want to spend it on. I wonder what Neo’s fantasies are and what he spends his money on that is so lofty.

Scientific innovation is not a waste of money, it’s usually a seed to greater things. These guys are not billionaires because they are greedy, or were born rich, they are billionaires because they spent their entire lives coming up with new ideas and then materializing them, and getting back up after every setback and failure (and rocket explosion) and starting over again. Musk has earned fortunes through the companies he has started and almost lost them again every time, starting the next ones. But he has persisted.

Rolf has an interesting angle. He apparently thinks that it’s Branson’s responsibility to plant 100 million trees, or build the first efficient water desalination plant.

Why have we never heard of Rolf Oehen and his revolutionary desalination plants that he has invented and built. And I might ask, how many trees has Rolf planted? Surely not 100 million.

Has he planted any trees?

Then there is Greenspaceguy! He blankly states that billionaires don’t pay income tax? Really? How does he know? Does he listen to Bernie Sanders, perhaps?

The irony is that Branson isn’t even a U.S. citizen. He’s British. I certainly don’t know what income taxes he pays, but he wouldn’t owe the U.S. government trillions.

And no, billionaires are not created by not paying taxes. I know plenty of poor people who don’t pay taxes, but they are not becoming billionaires. You become rich by building stuff that millions of people want to buy and spend their money on. Then, after you make a lot of money, you get to start paying taxes on it. The money doesn’t come from nothing. It comes from human ingenuity, perseverance, drive and creativity.

I think I need to stop right here and enjoy Branson’s “overnight success” that he has worked his entire life on.

 

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It was 1995.

Hardly anyone in the world knew what email was, and had never sent or received one. The first traces of the Internet were just surfacing. Google didn’t yet exist (it was created in September of 1998). Amazon was just founded less than a year before. Big tech was Microsoft on the desktop. Apple was just about to plunge into failure after Windows 95 was released, and it looked like it was going to die. Elon Musk had just moved to California to attend Stanford University but decided instead to pursue a business career, co-founding the web software company Zip2 with his brother.

That was when Carl Sagan wrote his book The Demon-Haunted World.

He had a vision of the future more than 20 years out that is eerily accurate and reflective of what we’re experiencing now, with the dumbing down of America in full swing. Here is an excerpt:

I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time – when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost  the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.

It is now 2021. Good morning, everyone!

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The iPhone 6 came out in September of 2014. I bought the iPhone 6 Plus on April 23, 2015. It was the top of the line on the market then and I paid $500 including tax. I bought the largest version since I wanted to be able to do all my Kindle reading on the phone, so I didn’t need another device.

I was successful with that, and the iPhone 6 has been a rock-solid companion for me ever since. It was sleek and thin in design.

About a year-and-a-half ago the battery started failing, so I went to a local shop, and for less than $50, I had a new battery installed. It was like new.

I use my phone for calls, texts, emails and, most importantly, reading books. Everything worked fine.

Then one day, my work required that I use the phone for two-factor-authentication (2FA), which means I have to use it to log into my computer. The app for 2FA could not be installed on the version of iOS on my phone. So – I was left with no choice but abandon my perfectly-working phone just so I can get a new one that supports that 2FA app.  Of course, all my workmates had been laughing at me for using a five-year-old phone, but I couldn’t help it, it worked fine, and it did everything I needed to do with it.

I bought the iPhone 12 Pro Max. With tax, it set me back $1220.-. Pretty expensive for something I don’t really need or want, but have to have.

When I got it, I noticed that Apple had let the design go. My old phone was thin and sleek and weighed only six ounces. The new one was about the same size, but a bit thicker, with an edge around it, rather than curved edges easy on the hands. And it weighs eight ounces, which is noticeably more when you hold it in your hand a lot when reading books.

The 12’s claim to fame is the new camera system, which uses a concept called Lidar to take pictures. Supposedly it can capture spatial information better and make pictures more three-dimensional. Not something I need but I get.

However, I noticed one thing that I could not believe at first: When you lay it down flat, the camera lenses stick out, and it does not rest properly. See the quick video I shot:

Steve Jobs, who chastised engineers for sloppy work inside computers – things users never saw – would never have accepted a product with a major design flaw like this. I call it a design flaw, because I want a phone that I can lay down flat on a table without it rocking.

I bought a case for it, which cures the rocking problem, but it makes it even heavier and bulkier. Steve Jobs used to sneer at cases. He asked why you would cover up something as beautiful as an iPhone with a case?

My iPhone 12 Pro Max works fine. I am enjoying battery life that lasts me four days of use, and I can run my 2FA app. I can read. I paid $1220 for what I would call a poorly designed product, so poor that I am motivated to write a blog post about it.

 

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Found this in my Facebook feed:

So true!

I might add that the modern German soul, to this day, has in its blood an aversion to overt displays of patriotism, like flags, banners, and military parades and all the pomp that comes with it. Germany spent the first half of last century focused on that, being consumed by that type of patriotism, and eventually it was destroyed. Tens of millions of people died.

Modern Germans tend to have an aversion to flag waving patriotism. When they land at LAX and you take them home in your car, they invariably start counting the American flags they see everywhere and ask: Why?

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I needed a voltmeter to check why the dome light in my Jeep isn’t working. Is it because the light is bad, or is it because the wires going there are dead?

Last night I went on Amazon and found this device:

Less than 18 hours after I ordered it, today, on a Sunday afternoon, I had it delivered to my door. The entire bill was $12.90. That includes tax, delivery (I’m on Prime, so I don’t pay delivery separately), and the device.

It measures not only AC and DC voltage, it measures current, resistance and temperature, it can be used to test transistors and diodes, and you can test continuity.

This device was made in China.

How on earth can somebody design a complex device like this, manufacture it, ship it all the way from China, sell it on Amazon and give Amazon a profit, ship it to me in less than 18 hours, pay tax, all on $12.90.

That to me is magic.

Now to test my dome light.

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Texas Mayor

Here is a post by Tim Boyd, the now former mayor of Colorado City, Texas, population 3,920 as of 2019. You can click on the image and enlarge it for better reading.


Before I get too far I should mention that the mayor resigned yesterday as a result of this post.

I put red boxes around obvious spelling or grammar errors. We all make spelling and grammar mistakes. I do too from time to time. But to have six of them in one post either means the mayor is not very educated, or he does not pay much attention to detail. The first can be excused. The second not. The mayor is addressing, or rather – assailing – his constituents, but he does not care enough to read his post one more time before hitting the Publish button.

It appears to me that the mayor fundamentally does not understand the role and responsibilities of a municipal government. He was elected to a position that has as its primary function and purpose providing for the safety, health and welfare of the citizens. That’s all we have municipal government for, that’s why it exists.

That’s why we pay taxes.

The mayor insults his constituents. He acts like we live in an agrarian society where we live off the land. In a municipal neighborhood, we do not have goats and cows in the backyard to supply milk, chickens for eggs, a well for water, and a rack of firewood. We do not have wood stoves to heat the house and boil water.

Instead, we have a contract with the water company to supply water, and another with the power company to get electricity, so we can leave our houses safe for our families while we go to work. We pay our electricity and water bills with the expectation that we continue to receive reliable services.

Getting services we contract for by ordering them from the power company is not “looking for a handout” as the mayor calls it. The power company only exists because there are enough citizens that sign up to buy power on a subscription service. When the power company all of a sudden stops delivering, it’s breaking its contract, it’s not fulfilling its responsibility. Asking the power company to live up to what it signed up for is not socialism, and it’s definitely not asking for a handout.

Calling citizens lazy when they are upset about the broken promises of the vendors and the government is an insult on top of injury.

The mayor actually says:

I’ll be damned if I’m going to provide for anyone that is capable of doing it themselves!

What?

So the mayor decides that some able-bodied citizens somehow magically go to the power company and turn the heat back on? The mayor decides who is elderly and can’t help themselves? He calls for people to stop being part of the problem, as if the people brought on the bitter cold in Texas. He calls for people to start taking care of their own families, without any practical suggestions as to how to do that.

Finally, he claims that the whole issue sadly is a product of a socialist government.

I just wonder what government he is talking about. Obviously, he has been the leader of that government in Colorado City for some time. And the Republican governor of Texas has been in power for several years. And the Republican president just finished his four years in office. So as far as I am concerned, Republicans have been in charge in Texas for a long time. What socialist government is the mayor referring to?

This is not 1880 in a Texas homestead. This is 2021 in a modern society where we rely on critical infrastructure to work.

What exactly is the mayor’s job then, if it’s not representing the community, and keeping people safe, healthy and protected?

Well, the mayor has resigned, and hopefully the people of Colorado City get a chance to elect somebody who at least has a rudimentary understanding of the responsibilities and duties of municipal government.

I wish them luck, and I hope that the cold breaks soon and they get relief.

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Source: Time Magazine, Feb 1, 2021, page 11.

I have been openly critical of the Thai monarchy. Heck, am critical of all monarchies, and I am fortunate to live in a country that does not support a monarchy.

However, I have previously posted about the Thai monarchy, and it was not flattering, here and here.

Given that people who don’t agree with the monarchy get 43-year prison sentences, I had better be careful and not accidentally travel to Thailand and get arrested. I am not sure I want to see the inside of a Thai prison.

It makes me wonder about the solidity of the values of the monarchies and the characters of the monarchs themselves when they can’t handle public criticism and are so afraid of it that they have to look dissenters up for life.

It does not buy my respect.

This makes me doubly grateful that I live in the United States, a democratic republic, where opposition to the leadership is settled by going to the ballot box, a system recently tested to its foundations, and a system worthy of protecting.

My freedom to write this without getting prosecuted depends on it.

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Pandemic Gardening

During the pandemic, we have spent more time in the yard, and one of the fruits of our labor were bell peppers.

To put this in perspective:

The two peppers on the left we bought at the market for 99 cents.

The two peppers on the right we grew ourselves. Given the cost of the plants, the planter, the irrigation, they probably cost 99 dollars, and it took at least 3 months to grow them.

Time and money well-spent.

I won’t talk about our carrots. Not a single one succeeded. I think we planted too late, and we have to start again in the spring. Good thing we’re not dependent on living off the land.

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Here is Elmo with an umbrella.

When it rains outside, we can use an umbrella to stay dry.

If you don’t use an umbrella, and you go out in the rain, you get all wet.

Getting wet is not good.

Staying dry is good.

That’s why we use an umbrella in the rain.

Elmo is smart.

He uses an umbrella.

 

 

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I have voted.

I have voted by mail for at least the last 20 years.

This year, it’s more controlled than ever. I signed up for tracking of my ballot, and I am getting texts every step of the way. I received a text when my ballot was mailed to me. I filled it out on Tuesday and dropped it into the mailbox down the street.

Today I got this text:

I am not sure it could get any better than that. California can do it. Why can’t all states do this?

We are registered by our driver’s licenses, passports, social security numbers, and all out banking methods. We have a registry of voters in every state, it’s called the “Registrar of Voters.” A simple ballot tracking system would make voting safe, speedy and efficient, and every vote can be counted.

But then again, the NRA does not want a national registry of gun ownership. I wonder why.

And it appears the GOP does not want safe, expeditious and effective ballot tracking. I wonder why.

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