Monday, September 29, 2008


There were six of us at supper last night. We met at a neighbor's house about six miles away. Turn off the black top, go a few miles, turn left at the stock tank and drive a couple more miles to a secluded spot on the side of a cinder cone where the view of the Painted Desert is spectacular.

On the way Julie and I picked up a young lady in her mid-thirties. As we drove she repeated something I've heard her say before: "This year has been the worst year of my life. I don't think I could go through anything worse but I think the worst is over." The first anniversary of her husband's unexpected death is about three weeks away.

Another person arrived before us. He lives in our area and starts a new job next week. He's been unemployed for the last four months and has been feeling the stress of finding a job. He was laid off from his previous job without warning.

The couple who hosted supper live in a modest place. At one time back in the 90's he earned over 100K per year. That was before they became homeless. I've heard the wife say it more than once and the depth of her emotion always comes through strongly: "I'll never be homeless again."

None of us are natives of Arizona. We came here from Virgina, Kentucky, Texas, California, Colorado and Utah. We all live on solar, haul water and have learned to adapt to a simpler lifestyle.

Early conversation, at least the conversation I heard, revolved around water, firewood and generators. Since the local water station is in need of repair we discussed other stations, their locations and whether they accepted coins or cards. The discussion moved to firewood for the winter. Julie and I have a national forest permit to cut wood. The young widow was asking about who delivered wood and the cost.

Simple, important conversation about the necessities of life. Later the conversation included conspiracy theories, joking, philosophies about life, humorous experiences at clothing optional springs and beaches, life experiences and more philosophy.

We never really discussed the current financial crisis. Somehow it's not important. Water is important. Firewood is important. Friends are important. We kept the conversation on the things that matter.

I had a wonderful time.

This morning I reflected on the evening and the financial situation. Personally, I wonder if it might be a good thing to let the economy slow down and correct itself without federal intervention. Yes, it will be hard on some people. I may have to postpone retiring and work a few years more but I don't mind. Some people will struggle but some people might benefit in an unexpected way. They may learn the differences between needs and wants. It's possible that some people will re-learn or learn for the first time the satisfaction that comes not from things but from self-reliance, from pulling together as a family, from friends and good times at a potluck supper.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Where do you stand?

Indulge me a moment.

Stop what you're doing and look at your feet.

What are you standing on? If you are sitting, on what does your chair rest? Chances are, it's man-made material - carpet, linoleum, tile, concrete. Would you agree that most of our time is spent standing, walking and sitting in a man-made environment?

We hiked near the Vermillion Cliffs in far northern Arizona yesterday. We hadn't broken from our work/responsibility routines in far too long. As I walked along the Cathedral Wash, which was mostly sand littered with pebbles and larger stone, I realized how much I had missed walking on natural materials. I realized suddenly that I need that experience.

The Tooth.
The Tooth. (Larger version)

I need to see the intricate patterns left in the sand by the receding waters. I'll never tire of seeing the fascinating patterns and layers in the rocks. I always think of how the huge boulders have lain in that same spot for decades and the storms they have weathered.

Dried mud.
Dried mud crunched under our feet. (Larger version)

Interesting rocks.
Interesting rocks. (Larger version)

I need to look along canyon walls and see God's landscape design - chaotic yet soothing in its variety. I'm always filled with anticipation for what insect or animal I might encounter.

Lone butterfly.
Lone butterfly. (Larger version)

When we see occasional historic litter, I wonder about that person who passed before me. How different was their world from mine? Did they have the time and energy to admire their surroundings or did the demands of survival take all their attention?

Historical litter.
Historical litter. (Larger version)

I could go on and on about what I hear, smell and feel as I remove myself from the man-made world and enter the ever-shrinking natural world. On this trip, when we returned to the car, I was tired and hungry, sweaty and dirty and my feet hurt. But, overwhelmingly, I was satisfied and already thinking about where I wanted to go next.

Before Paul and I started hiking and exploring, I was content with carpet, concrete and carefully designed landscapes. I didn't know what I was missing and could have lived out my life, happily ignorant. There's no doubt in my mind that I am richer for the discovery of my need. Join us on the trail and see if you don't share my experience!

(This entry was written by Julie who is the north to my south, the sanity to my insanity, the hope to my pessimism, the one who enriches my life and defines love. I take no credit for it.)


Does it really matter if a person is qualified to be president? From one perspective I don't think so. We don't evaluate the candidates, weigh their experiences and consider positions on issues. We vote from emotion, from reaction, from some non-rational motive.

Why do we have to endure negative campaigns? Because they work! Research and past campaigns have shown this to be true. Negative campaigns reach for our emotions, fears and insecurities rather than appeal to reason.

I watched part of the debate on Friday night. For a while I listened but then I stopped listening and began pretending. First I pretended I was Republican supporting McCain. I wanted Obama to lose, to say something outlandish that I could fault. Interesting. Then I swapped sides. I pretended to be a Democrat and gave my allegiance to Obama and had a sneer for Mccain.

It was a futile exercise because my mind, like most minds, was made up before the debate.
See (Larger version)

It's no surprise that members of each party thought their own candidate won the debate. That's what we do as irrational humans.

I read the following on a blog and it tugged at my attention: "Amen to Dan and his statement! Obviously an individual with some maturity and insightful thinking. We need many more like him to help this country make logical and 'rational' decisions about its future!"

I like this comment. It appeals to something in me; something that wants to be rational and logical. Just once I'd like to participate in an election in which we never see the candidates or hear their voices. In my dream election we won't know some data about the candidates -- name, party affiliation, age, gender, skin color, religion, sexual preference, weight and ethnicity. Pundits would not be allowed. Opinion polls would be banned. Our information about the candidates would come from the candidates themselves -- their voting records, their written position statements, their written proposed solutions to major problems.

Can you imagine our horror when the election is over to see our new president and realize we have elected someone who evokes a strong negative emotional reaction?

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I work at a state university and periodically work on a hiring committee as a member or chairperson. Positions are posted and applicants must meet certain criteria. Following is portion of a job posting.

Minimum Qualifications
  • Associate's degree in Computer Science or related field AND three years of systems/programming experience, OR;
  • Bachelor's degree in Computer Science or related field AND two years of systems/programming experience; OR,
  • Four years of systems and/or programming experience; OR,
  • Any equivalent combination of experience, training and/or education.

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities
  • Knowledge of the theory, principles and practices of ...
  • Skill in using ...
  • Demonstrated commitment to ...
  • Record of investigating, testing, and ...
  • Familiarity with a variety of web ...
  • Familiarity with digital ...
  • Commitment to and record of outstanding ...
  • Excellent interpersonal, negotiation, and ...
  • Excellent time management and ...
  • Creative approaches to ...
  • Demonstrated abilities in ...
  • Demonstrated flexibility ...
  • Highly productive ...
  • Excellent written ...

Once the application period is closed, committee members take the applications and evaluate them independently according to a set of criteria. Completed evaluations are collected, the scores are averaged and the top applicants are scheduled for phone interviews. All applicants are asked the same questions and committee members independently evaluate their responses. Results are averaged and the top applicants are brought on campus for interviews by the committee. I think it's a fairly good system.

I wonder what would happen if a similar process were utilized in selecting presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

The constitution specifies the minimum qualifications but one would have to think about knowledge, skills and abilities.

What knowledge, skills and abilities are needed to be president at this time? No, I'm not asking about their positions on issues. That may be important but first we need to identify women and men who have the ability to do the job.

It has happened that we have elected incompetent people who adhere to our highly valued positions on emotionally charged issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and immigration. The candidates may agree with our opinions on these issues but they aren't qualified for the job.

What knowledge, skills and abilities are needed to be president at this time? This is a tough question and I have an incomplete response rolling around in my brain. But, it's a question I have to ask myself. Otherwise, I'm not immune to the inane sights and sounds that are packaged as campaign broadcasts designed to manipulate me.

I wonder how may registered voters ever consider this question.

Summer 2008 Photos (4 of 4)

Walking Stick.
I opened the hood of the car to check the oil and found this walking stick. I moved him to a safer location. (Larger version)

Lava stone.
A piece of lava found on a morning walk. I choose not to resist the temptation to pick up various pieces to weigh them and feel their texture. Hopefully, before I die I'll stand on the slopes of an active volcano or near a hot lava flow. (Larger version)

Hope of a summer shower.
Hope of a summer shower. We received less rain this summer than in previous years but the clouds were always beautiful. (Larger version)

A crop of birdseed.
Each summer, after the monsoons begin, birdseed in the yard sprouts and feeds rabbits. (Larger version)

Late in the summer this sunflower grew in a container that had been planted with peppers. We never watered it but it did well. (Larger version)

Break time.
Break time. When the temperatures are near 100 degrees its enjoyable to take a break at the end of the day. (Larger version)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Summer 2008 Photos (3 of 4)

A rabbit between the glass and the bird netting reads the vegetarian recipe. (Larger version)

Horned lizard.
Julie holds a young horned lizard that we encountered on an early morning walk. (Larger version)

Tomato Horn Worm.
Tomato Horn Worm. We elevated potted tomatoes on 55 gallon drums of water to protect them from rabbits. The only protection from worms is a daily inspection. (Larger version)

Unidentified caterpillar.
A caterpillar climbs the bird netting outside the sun room. I left him to his journey but wondered what he would do when he encountered the guttering at the top of the net. (Larger version)

A hot jackrabbit hides in the shade of tomatoe plants. When I found him he never moved. This is the closest I've ever been to a jackrabbit. Normally they are elusive. (Larger version)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Memories of Water

My first memory of water was at my grandmother's house. She had neither well nor cistern other than a rain barrel under a downspout. The water from the barrel was used for washing and cleaning. Drinking water came from a spring a short distance from the house. The path to the spring passed through thickets of Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel. I remember removing the piece of corrugated metal that kept leaves out of the pool and watching salamanders flee. One of my first lessons from an older cousin was that salamanders were signs of good water. They would not be found in polluted water. I was taught that over 55 years ago and have often wondered about it's accuracy. I have seen them in water that I wouldn't drink without filtering or treating.

The world, or at least my small world, has changed since those days.

There is a privately owned water station about two miles from my house. I get about 1,250 gallons or five loads per month. It's close and convenient.

About 10 days ago I saw a sign that read "out of order". I checked a few days later and a new sign indicated "repair date unknown".

Rather than wait I phoned a friend and asked about other stations. He told me of one less than one mile off the route I take to and from work. The cost is about one-third of what I have been paying. A load normally costs me $3.75 but at this location it costs $1.40.

On the counter at a gas station on the edge of town is a machine. Deposit $1 and receive a plastic card with a magnetic strip. Insert the card into the machine and deposit bills ($1, 5, 10 or 20) and a total is recorded on the card. Take the card to the water station and insert it into a machine and water is dispensed and the balance on the card begins counting down on a display. When the tank is full press a button and the water stops and the card ejects.

I got the first load today.

From a spring and a bucket to a plastic card with a magnetic stripe. Things have changed. Not necesarily improved but changed.

Summer 2008 Photos (2 of 4)

Pottery shard.
A piece of Native American pottery. When I lived in Kentucky I thought it would be exciting to find a piece of pottery. Now I've seen thousands of pieces but the excitement hasn't lessened. I never dreamed I would one day own property littered with pottery. (Larger version)

Rufous hummingbird.
Rufous hummingbird. This year we saw only Black Chinned and a few Rufous hummingbirds. On some years there are many Rufous and some other species. (Larger version)

Hopi Rattlesnake.
Hopi Rattlesnake. Normally we see seven or eight per year but this summer only two. Julie encountered this one while I was at work, took some photos and sent me an instant message: This fella was resting on the southwest side of the bird water when I decided to dump a bucket of fresh water in. He scared the peepee out of me but, as I've been trained, I immediately ran for the camera. (Larger version)

This moth worked these flowers for 15 minutes without ever landing on a blossom. (Larger version)

Pool Party.
Pool Party!. (Larger version)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Curiosity

Received an email from my sister, Gale. Here's a portion that poked my curiosity.

Also, Bill Lambert sent me this documentation made by the mining company when our grandfather was killed. Notice his age when he first started working in the mines! The actual report is in the 1921 WV Department of Mines fatality book, which is in the storage area at the state archives. The reports for this era were just single page pre printed forms filled out by the company, and sent in whenever convenient. At the end of the year, all of the reports were bound into a hard backed binder. While most of the info in these reports are not much more than my basic information, sometimes there are some interesting tidbits - such as, last words, employee evaluation, etc...

Year Died: 1921
County: McDowell
Company: Mill Creek Coal & Coke Co.
Name Of Mine: Tug
S/U: Underground
Victim: Lambert, Joseph
Inj Date: 29-Mar-1921
Died: 29-Mar-1921
Origin: American
Exp: 32 years
Age: 42 years
Occupation: Laborer
M/S: Married
DP: 6 Dependents
Cause: Slate Fall (U

Thought you might be interested. Hope all is well!

My grandfather died 25 years before I was born. I never heard stories about him other than he died in the mines and I never heard details of his death. I don't remember asking questions about him. If I did, my father probably didn't have much in the way of memories since he was eight at the time of his father's death. A few years ago an uncle who was younger than my father said he had only one vague memory of his father. In the memory his father was holding him. I guess he would have been about 4 at the time of the accident.

The curiosity is his age when he started working in the mines. If he died in 1921 at age 42 and had 32 years experience then he must have started working in 1889 when he was 10 years old.

Until now, I've never really been curious about my grandfather. I wonder what kind of man he was.

Summer 2008 Photos (1 of 4)

Dead heading a pot of flowers.
Julie dead heading a pot of flowers. By the end of the summer the mass of blossoms had more than doubled and the pot was hidden. (Larger version)

Yellow headed blackbirds.
In the fading light right after sunset one evening two yellow headed blackbirds began digging for seed below a feeder. This is the only time we've seen these blackbirds in the yard. (Larger version)

Setting sun.
Setting sun. (Larger version)

Bullock's Oriole.
Bullock's Oriole. One of the perches on the feeder was broken off in a accident which turned out to our advantage. By turning the broken perch away from the house we always had the birds feed where we could see them. (Larger version)

Rabbit tail.
On a morning walk I found a rabbit tail but not its former owner. (Larger version)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Help save a life!

I copied the following from a page on the ACLU website.

Subject: Help save a life!

A man who is almost certainly innocent needs your help, and fast.

On Friday, September 12th, Troy Davis was denied clemency by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. It is imperative that we respectfully ask them to reconsider this unfortunate decision. They have to power to stop this indefensible execution and we must implore them to make the right decision.

Troy Anthony Davis was convicted of the murder of off-duty Savannah Police Officer Mark MacPhail in 1991. No physical evidence links him to the crime, and he has steadfastly maintained his innocence. His conviction was based solely on the testimony of witnesses. There was no other evidence against him. Since his trial, seven people who had previously testified against Troy changed the story they had told in court.

Some witnesses say they were coerced by police. Others have even signed affidavits implicating one of the remaining two witnesses as the actual killer. But due to an increasingly restrictive appeals process, none of this new evidence has ever been heard in court.

Can you take 30 seconds and help save the life of a man who is almost certainly innocent? You can learn more and take action here:

The Same

I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican. As I watch adherents to the two religions I'm struck by some observations. Here are three examples:
  • One says the glass is half full; the other says it's half empty. I'm mystified as to how one amount of liquid can create such emotional controversy.

  • Each side accuses the other of being unpatriotic and asserts patriotism is a supreme good. However, neither side acknowledges the patriotism of Iran, China, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela as noble and good.

  • Party A and Party B equally change their positions as needed and both parties place winning an election above honesty, ethics and the good of the citizens.
As I watch the evolving conflict between the two groups I'm reminded of the old Star Trek episode of hatred between two inhabitants of an alien planet. One was white on the left and black on the right; the other black and white but on opposite sides.

Externally different but internally identical. The same.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Alternative Solution

I needed to glue some oak lumber to make a landing for stairs. I no longer own a jointer so I checked on purchasing another one and discovered the prices have increased more than I anticipated. More significantly, my utility building is full and I don't have a place to store another tool.

Temporarily fastening the pieces together.
Temporarily fastening the pieces together. (Larger version)

As as alternative I purchased a straight 1/2 by 1 & 1/4 router bit. Rather than routing the pieces separately I decided to do both at the same time. My logic for doing them together was that a minor variance on one piece would result in a mirror image on the other piece which would, hopefully, result in a good joint on the first pass.

A passing shower prevented me from actually routing the assembly for a couple hours.
A passing shower prevented me from actually routing the assembly for a couple hours. I moved lumber and tools inside and waited. (Larger version)

I placed both pieces face down, aligned the ends, spaced them the width of the shaft of the bit and fastened them together with two pieces of scrap lumber. Next, I turned the assembled piece face up, clamped a level to the assembly and routed the joint. I was pleased with the finished joint.

A finished product.
A finished product. (Larger version)

Within two years I hope to erect a workshop and buy a jointer. Until then, this solution works fine.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Volunteer Work

Today I completed 52 hours of volunteer work for the Master Gardener program.

Bus Stop Garden after weeding.
Bus Stop Garden after weeding. (Larger version)

On some days in July and August I worked two hours each day before going to work at the University and worked some Saturdays and Sundays. The major project I worked on was at the Museum of Northern Arizona. A new 11,000 square feet building is being constructed that will have a living roof. I helped plant Blue Gramma grass in 5,500 coconut fiber trays. About six other species of seeds and plants will be added to the flats before they are moved to the roof in November.

Planting Blue Gramma.
Planting Blue Gramma. (Larger version)

Last week and this week I took a few hours of vacation to finish the remaining hours of the required 50. I worked with other volunteers to collect native seeds: cliffrose, lupine, buckwheat, cinquefoil, lotus and sunflower.

Now that I have these hours completed, I'm going to apply for the Master Naturalist program next year. This program requires 40 hours of volunteer work.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Finally, We Meet!

As I drove by he was walking across the yard away from me. I had heard of him but never seen him. He was dressed in work boots, heavy socks and a tan. It was the naked guy! Everyone refers to him with an adjective and his first name, as in Naked Ralph or Naked Clarence.

I was on my way to visit friends who were his neighbors. As I talked with them the wife said "I've never seen him in a shirt."

The husband painted an interesting scene. "He stretches a hose across the yard until the sun warms the water then sits down in a lawn chair to take a shower. When he's finished he walks around the yard until he's dry."

(Hey, I'm in favor of solar heated water and minimizing laundry but I don't think I'll propose this idea to Julie.)

About a month later Julie and I were headed somewhere. As we drove down our dirt road toward the blacktop a Jeep pulling a trailer with a load of water came toward us. The driver door had been removed and the driver had his left foot stretched out in a relaxed way. He was shirtless, had a maintenance-free beard and hair that was given it's freedom to pick a style. One hand steered the vehicle and the other held a can of beer. We stopped opposite one another and exchanged greetings. It was the naked guy!

We talked for a while and I realized I had seen him before. He rides a Harley and I've seen him from a distance a few times.

I've heard people mention him but never heard anyone say anything bad or derogatory about him. His closest neighbors think well of him. His house and yard are among the neatest in the area.

I like this guy. It's difficult not to like a guy who chooses to disregard peer pressure and be himself.

I wish there were more people like the naked guy. No, no naked people but people who choose to be themselves, wear whatever fits their mood at the moment and enjoy life. People like that will let me be myself. I can't imagine this guy criticizing my choice of attire. He doesn't care that my car is covered with dust and needs washing. He'll never think I need to trim my beard.

Before we parted he said "Come up and visit me sometime. I'll knock a few cobwebs down and we'll have a beer."

Life has enough stress but not enough stress-free friends.

Legal but not Just

I remember the first time the concept of justice entered my conscious brain. About 1950 I had a child's storybook that my mother read to me: Little Black Sambo. My strongest memory is a drawing of a palm tree and the blur of tigers circling the tree and turning into butter as Sambo clung to the top of the tree. A caption said something to the effect "there is justice in the jungle after all".

Justice! A fairness, a counter balance that makes things right and correct. Justice may be a concept unique to humans among all animals.

Several years ago I came to the realization that "Department of Justice" is a misnomer. A more appropriate title would be "Department of Legalities". That which is legal is not by definition just.

Last week I received an email from the ACLU about the impending execution of Troy Davis.

"An African-American, Davis was convicted of the murder of off-duty Savannah Police Officer Mark MacPhail in 1991. No physical evidence links him to the crime, and he has steadfastly maintained his innocence. His conviction was based solely on the testimony of witnesses. There was no other evidence against him. And, since his trial, seven of those witnesses have recanted -- changing the story they told in court.

Some witnesses say they were coerced by police. Others have even signed affidavits implicating one of the remaining two witnesses as the actual killer. But due to an increasingly restrictive appeals process, none of this new evidence has ever been heard in court."

Last Friday the Georgia Department of Pardons and Paroles met to decide if Davis should be executed.

The Georgia pardons board has denied clemency for death row inmate Troy Davis, who was convicted of murdering a Savannah police officer.

Supporters of Davis, who is scheduled to be executed Sept. 23, say he should be granted a new trial because several witnesses who testified against him recanted their statements. They have called on the state to delay the execution until the Supreme Court discusses the case later this month.

The board did not give a reason for its decision to deny Davis clemency. (

I don't know if Davis is guilty or innocent but I do wonder why the execution wasn't postponed to give the Supreme Court an opportunity to review his conviction.

Sambo may have found justice in the jungle but I wonder if justice has been corrupted in the legal system. The Patriot Act and actions like this feed my cynicism.

cynic: "a faultfinding captious critic ; especially: one who believes that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest"

captious: "marked by an often ill-natured inclination to stress faults and raise objections"

Scary stuff!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

What Are You Reading?

One of my favorite questions is "What are you reading?" I find reading to be a sacred experience so it's a question that reaches for the heart of a person. A few weeks ago the question was turned back on me so here's a list of the books that I've read recently.

After waiting for a year the local used book store got in a copy of Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future by Bill McKibben. This book was both encouraging and frustrating at the same time. It caused me to want to read Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations as well as some history about Smith.

A surprising accidental find was An No Birds Sang by Farley Mowat. This was my first experience with Canadian author Mowat. The book is an autobiographical account of his experiences as an officer during the Italian campaign of Word War II. Near the end of the book is the sentence that explains the title: "I was staring down a vertiginous tunnel where all was black and bloody and the great wind of ultimate desolation howled and hungered. I was alone....relentlessly alone in a world I never knew....and no birds sang."

At the height of death and destruction, darkness and danger, Mowat suddenly ends the book as he stands on the battlefield. What the heck? A small two or three page afterword was the clincher. Mowat explained that his editor told him he couldn't end the book like that. Farley responded by writing a few words to the effect of "what do you care that I went to another Italian town and that I worked in another military position, that I was discharged and returned home to Canada?" Mowat's intention had been not to write about himself but to paint the horror of war. By suddenly ending the book at the most horrific moment he left the reader with a nightmare. The book was published in 2003. Hmmm?

The afterword sparked my interest in Mowat. I found and read A Farley Mowat Reader: "With Selections from Born Naked, The Dog Who Wouldn't Be, Owls in the Family, The Boat Who Wouldn't Float and Many Others."

My father-in-law gave me a copy of I Wish I'd Been There: Twenty Historians Bring to Life Dramatic Events That Changed America. The compilation was edited by Byron Hollinshead. This book grabbed my attention. The articles included the following:

  • The Salem Witchcraft Trials
  • The Corrupt Bargain
  • The Amistad Trial
  • John Brown at Harper's Ferry
  • La Follette Speaks Against the War - 1917
  • Trying John Scopes
  • Lyndon Johnson Confronts George Wallace
  • Lost-found Nation: The Last Meeting Between Elijah Muhammad and W. D. Fard
I had history in high school and college but didn't find it particularly enjoyable. After becoming an adult I found myself gravitating toward history. This book explained things that I vaguely remembered but didn't fully understand. It told of events about which I'd never heard and added details that were surprising.

I didn't know that the trial of John Scopes for teaching evolution was a staged trial. The ACLU placed a press release in a Chattanooga newspaper seeking a teacher to test the Butler Act in court. A business man in Dayton, Tennessee talked with a group in a drug store about the economic benefit to the town if the trial were held there. The group approached a young teach, John Scopes, and asked for his permission to be arrested and tried. He agreed. Business boomed in Dayton's restaurants and hotels for a short time and Hollywood had the material for a movie.

Sometimes an author slips in a sentence that is peripheral to the story but is one which brings my reading to a stop to think. In Chief Joseph Surrenders which chronicled the flight and capture of the Nez Pierce I discovered this diamond: "This Joseph seemed disgusted and also suffused with the bitterness to which disappointed men of intelligence are prone." Bitterness to which disappointed men of intelligence are prone? Hmmm?

A Time of War: Remembering Guadalcanal, A Battle Without Maps by Willam H. Whyte, Jr. was published posthumously. This is a small book that seems unfinished. Perhaps if Whyte had lived longer he might have added more details. Still, it was an enjoyable peek into his life and experiences. The unexpected find in the book was references to his book The Organization Man which was published in 1956. It appears Whyte foresaw American decline and decay. This book might be worth reading.

I've begun but haven't finished The Great Turning by David C. Korten. A co-worker loaned me the book. It began well but I've bogged down. It's not grabbing my attention as it did in the first chapters. I'm taking a break and will return to it and possibly finish it.

I'm currently reading The Back Road to Crazy - Stories from the Field. This is a book of 38 stories edited by Jennie Bove.

The first story, Bit by Mark W. Moffett, was a real downer. "Other scientists have been known to cut off their hands at such a moment. Joe sat down to join the rest of us for breakfast at a long wooden school table, joking about his thick skin. It was seven o'clock in the morning . . ." One of a group of field biologists doing research in Myanmar is bitten by a krait, "a cousin of the cobra and much more deadly." After the death of this biologist the next two stories are humorous. I'm enjoying this book.

Waiting in the wings is a small, fat paperback with print too small for aging eyes. Guadalcanal by Edwin P. Hoyt. I've read other books by Hoyt and saw this on a shelf at a local used book store. The cost was only $1.50 so it's a safe bet for a cold winter night when I'm not sleepy and out of reading material.

You've probably noticed that I don't read fiction. Sometimes I read poetry but generally prefer non-fiction.

That's what I've been reading.

Monday, September 08, 2008

A Nasty Temptation

For some reason I have been tempted over the last two years to post a photo of money -- ones, fives, tens, twenties, hundreds -- with the caption "America, behold your gods!"

Personally, I think the United States is extremely religious but is neither Christian nor devoted to any other organized religion. I think we worship no God but many gods.

Rationally I know greed is not uniquely American and isn't limited to money. Eliminate money and institute a barter system anywhere in the world and a few people will end of with the biggest flocks and the best fields.

It's irritating as hell to live in a consumer society. It's like watching a crime and being unable to prevent it.

OK, this is my dark post for the day.

998 Days Later

The highest point in Arizona is Humphrey's Peak, slightly over 12,600 feet in elevation. On October 2, 2005 we hiked to within one-half mile of the peak before Julie developed a pain in one hip that caused us to turn back. We live close so we decided to put it on the recreational list for the future. This summer on June 26 we climbed to the top. The hike was about 10 miles round trip.

Climbing the trail.
Climbing the trail. (Larger version)

Taking a break at the saddle.
Taking a break at the saddle. (Larger version)

The trail near tree line.
The trail near tree line. (Larger version)

Looking into the Inner Basin. Home is about 20 miles away on the hazy horizon.
Looking into the Inner Basin. Home is about 20 miles away on the hazy horizon. (Larger version)

Climbing to the peak after exploring the far side.
Climbing to the peak after exploring the far side. (Larger version)

Reading the summit journals.
Reading the summit journals. (Larger version)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A Perfect Answer

"Do you trust white people?"

I liked and respected the young man before asking the question. After hearing his answer my like and respect grew. His answer paralleled a chess player being put in check who makes a swift move that escapes the danger and puts his opponent in check.

I was touring Taos Pueblo north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The young Native American leading the tour was enrolled in college with a major in political science. He was home for the summer working at the pueblo.

During the tour he explained the importance of his community and his lack of individualism. His identity was centered and rooted in his clan. After graduating from college he planned on returning home and working for the benefit of Taos.

His comments, my reading of Native American history and my curiosity prompted me to ask the question "Do you trust white people?".

His reply was a question that was quick, casual and brilliant: "Do you trust congress?"

I complimented him on his response.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A La Carte

The number one meal of divorced American males in the 1970's was cold cereal and milk. I don't know what current research reveals as the top meal but I do know I ate my share of cereal and tuna fish straight from the can (no dishes to wash) in the 1990's.

Those days are in the past.

Julie cooking waffles for breakfast.
Julie cooking waffles for breakfast. (Larger version)

Julie manages the menu at our house and does an excellent job! On a Friday morning in July she suggested we cook waffles on the deck. On a whim I took a photo of the breakfast table. Lunch came and I felt the same whim. Supper wasn't a whim but felt like an unfinished task to document a culinary day in our life on July 11, 2008.

Lunch of vegan tamales from the local farmer's market.
Lunch of vegan tamales from the local farmer's market. (Larger version)

Julie makes the menu decisions and does the preparation with the exception of breakfast and lunch on work days. I make breakfast and pack our lunches. Also, I try to help with the dishes most of the time since she refuses to eat from the can and has reformed me.

A supper of fruits, nuts, hummus, blue corn chips, string cheese and a zinfandel wine
A supper of fruits, nuts, hummus, blue corn chips, string cheese and a zinfandel wine. (Larger version)