Friday, December 31, 2010

Ten Years Have Passed

It was ten years ago today (12/31/2000) that I retired from sales and marketing Information Technology (IT) equipment with StorageTek**. I started in Data Processing and 35 years later it was the same business with a different name. Kind of like the horseless carriage to the automobile. The 35 years was a great ride as the industry matured from punched cards and paper tape to optical storage and high density chip technology.

Since that retirement date, the last ten years have gone by rapidly. Lots of photos and words have documented my nomadic exploring of the country. (Most of that drivel can be found via the "archives" URL in the side panel.) In those ten years, I have not come close to exploring the country. It might take 20 life times -- or more -- to accomplish that. In the meantime, I will live this life -- every day.

And NO. I don't miss working. Even if I wanted to work, I certainly couldn't qualify for a position in IT. My qualifications may be more appropriate to greet customers at Wal-Mart.

**StorageTek no longer exists after being purchased by Sun. Sun in turn was purchased by Oracle. The StorageTek headquarters buildings no longer exist in Louisville Colorado. Those buildings have been razed by ConocoPhillips with plans to build a "technology and learning center" on the 432 acres that once was StorageTek.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Back Home

Back home last night and sleeping in my own bed with my own pillow was a pleasure.

Staying at Vanita and Gabe's house was great. The time was spent chatting, taking Freebie to the park to play Frisbee catch, and dining at some great restaurants. An outstanding seafood restaurant was one. A real Chinese restaurant where we were the only non-Chinese.

Been seven years since my last visit to a theater to see a movie. Vanita and Gabe wondered if I would like to join them for a movie. Since I had just read about the remake of "True Grit", I wondered if that would work for them. Agreed. Great movie. My rating was five stars. However, I am biased to western cowboy mythology.

The movie watching experience can be trying. Before the movie started there was fifteen minutes of commercials and a half dozen preview trailers. No cell phones rang during the movie, but that person digging into the bag of popcorn two rows back was something that doesn't happen when watching at home.

All good things must come to an end. Hugs all around -- including Freebie and Faedra -- I returned to the Wandrin Wagon parked at Palm Springs.

Leaving San Diego before today's predicted rain, I arrived back home yesterday afternoon. And my own bed -- and pillow -- last evening. Next time my pillow will go with me.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Eve

A San Diego Christmas Eve was at Lili (Gabe's cousin) and Marcos' house. Relatives filled the home and enjoyed, ceviche, tamales, venison, candies, etc. Surprise, but Santa Claus was the guest of honor. Everyone ended up with a gift. The younger ones were given extras. My gift: Crown Royal. How did Santa know.

With lots of photos throughput the evening, this photo is of the closest members of my San Diego family. Left to right: Pete (the artist, Liz (Pete's wife, Gabe's sister), some ugly guy, Santa Claus, Chilli (Liz and Pete's daughter), Mirta (Gabe's mother), Gabe, and Vanita.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Observations

Every tree in the Christmas tree lots is a perfect triangle conical shape. No "Charlie Brown" tree to be seen. No holes or missing branches could be found. Kind of like commercial TV describing the flaw that can be addressed with their product. It seems only natural that no flaws are allowed for that Christmas tree. What ever happened to charity and taking care of the less fortunate -- tree.

Sirius radio... is listened to very selectively during December. Some of the streams play nothing but Christmas themed music 24 hours a day. Too much. Yuck. What ever happened to "balance". That was bad enough. When I was listening to a local classical music station, among the serious Christmas themed music, they played "The Barking Dogs -- Jingle Bells". Always hated that version. Couldn't get to the off switch fast enough.

Guilt gift shopping.... Really. It's not a Christmas gift. It's guilt. The shoppers were crowding the stores. I was in the Best Buy checking out the latest in gadgets, but found nothing I needed -- let alone wanted. However, it appeared that I was one of the few not buying -- or into guilt gift purchasing. The checkout lines were 20 deep with gifts to assuage that guilt. And the serious guilt gift shopping on Christmas Eve is still a couple of days away. The lines will be longer.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What Eclipse

Timing is everything.

Happen to be in the wrong place for the winter solstice this year. Pacific storms are coming on shore and leaving lots of rain. Palm Springs is getting a little rain, but mostly gray skies -- night and day. That is why there is no photo of the eclipse from Wandrin in Palm Springs.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Desert Gray Day

Been light rain for most of today. If it clears tomorrow, snow should be visible atop San Jacinto. Good place for snow. Yesterday was just -- gray and overcast instead of the bright blue. Yesterday was also a hiking day and along the Henderson trail was a place to rest.

Along my hike, the hummingbirds were a constant buzz in their search for calories. Not sure what this plant is, but I am going to call it a hummingbird bush. Those little red flowers are about two inches long and watching the hummingbird feed is fascinating. At most it is a one second feeding before moving to another blossom.

The bighorn sheep are supposed to be hanging around every trail waiting for hikers to spot them. Not on my hikes. So this statue at the San Jacinto Visitor center will have to substitute for an actual sighting.

Wonder if bighorn sheep have ever been a stand in for Santa Claus' reindeer.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

From the Driver's Seat

These accumulate on the recorder and eventually I shame myself into getting them posted. Some of these are July observations.

Oregon has some unusual town names. Three that I encountered: ZIGZAG  BORING   SUBLIMITY

Vanity license plates:

PURFECTO -- on a little sports car

4EEYORE -- appears to be a fan of the character from A.A. Milne's Winnie The Pooh

MGNFZNT -- alternate spelling for "magnificent"?

SHE LFT -- man drives pickup truck towing a fifth wheel trailer

6PKHLDR -- on a huge SUV

...and a few more:








[heart symbol]2BRTHE

PILLBOX is a clever business name for a pharmacy

Wondered what is an "Australian tan" posted on a tanning salon. Maybe no ozone protection.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Snow And Palm Trees

Ever since I've started this nomadic wandering, the winters have been south of I-10 where palm trees are a frequent  landscape feature and the temperatures rarely drop into the 30 degree range.

With palm trees around, I will never get used to the "Sleigh Bells Ringing", "Jingle Bells", fake snow flocked trees, and -- is this really necessary -- plastic snow men.

Then there is the storing for eleven months until next year. Okay. So I'm a grinch. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Book: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Subtitled: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Louie Zamperini is the subject of this book as a 19 year old Olympic participant in 1936, entered WWII, survived 47 days afloat on the Pacific, survived two years in a Japanese POW, and eventually returned to civilian life fighting the demons of his experiences. Louie still lives an active life at the age of 93. Unbroken says it all. The book is a page turner although at times it can be a tough read as one reads about basic survival and man's cruelty to another human being.

The movie is already in development. Don't wait for the movie. Read the book.

Laura Hillenbrand wrote one other book. That was Seabiscuit -- a non-fiction account of the racehorse. Learn everything there is to know about the horses and horse racing.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Life Is About Balance

Life is about balance. Indeed. Not sure that I could stand on stilts today.

In September an entry was posted about physical balance issues. Upon arrival in Palm Springs it was time to check in with the medical community (compliments of medicare) to determine a possible reason for the infrequent moments of light headedness and the occasional non-alcohol related staggering. My name is Lloyd and I have... Oops. That was another group.

With the aging -- old -- population of Palm Springs and a high ratio of doctors to the population, I was into the ear, nose and throat specialist within a matter of days after arriving in Palm Springs. After listening to my history and a problem definition, the doctor ordered an MRI and a visit to the balance testing specialists.

The MRI proved normal. Physically. That alone was comforting. Asked the good doctor if it was possible there might be something that might show up on the MRI to explain the somewhat irrational desire for nomadic living in a home on wheels. Nope. Couldn't help me there.

The visit to the balance testing specialists included lots of high tech gadgets, watching my eyes, blowing air in to my ears, trying to a stand on a platform that moves with my slightest movement and more tests.

The diagnosis was bilateral peripheral vestibular weakness. Putting that in terms I could understand is that I have staggering and balance issues due to an inner ear problem. Hey guys. Good job. Nice to know that there is a reason for what I experience. Now what.

No pills to make it go away. Physical therapy was prescribed. Went to the therapist and I was prescribed some exercises while standing on a piece of stiff foam. As the foam compresses, the body responds to the inputs from eyes, ears, and muscles to maintain the upright posture.

Doctor says it may be six months before noticing any change as a result of the physical therapy. Will I be able to remember what it may have been like six months earlier. :) Or could the problem have gone away -- in much the same way it appeared.

Along with the physical therapy, I determined that hiking on un-level trails will be good additional therapy. More reason to get out and hike.

Some days are great with no symptoms. Others. Not so good. On one particular bad day, I seriously began to wonder and considering where (not an easy decision) I was going to rent an apartment and give up the travel. Fortunately, I recovered. Whew. That decision of where to "settle" has been put off for another day.

Considering there are no other health issues and no medications, I can live with the unsteadiness and staggering. At least I believe I can.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Took my own advice and have been wandering hiking trails around the Palm Springs area.

The weather has been ideal for these hikes with temps climbing into the low 80s. A bit hot for hiking. With lots of water I manage to cope with the tough conditions. (Sure beats 20 inches of Wisconsin snow -- or anywhere else with snow).

Then there is this cactus which managed a home in this rock. That takes tough living to new levels.

At this time of year, the color of the desert is mostly brown. There are some bloom for the hummingbirds and the bees. Couldn't get a decent closeup of the tiny flowers. Go with your imagination.

Spring is a great time to be hiking the trails when cactus and brittle bush is in bloom. This photo is from spring 2009.

Some creative and ambitious hiker stacked rock atop a high point along the trail. Turned out to be a great place to sit and contemplate my good fortune to be there. Far away from traffic sounds and bird song accenting the quiet, it was a relaxing time.

As I was enjoying the view, the stacked rock reminded me of days on the farm in northern Wisconsin where the annual crop of rocks was a harvest that no one looked forward to, but yet had to be done. And I picked my share.

Over many hiking years, I have added rocks to existing trail cairns and sometimes built a rock structure. Each of those times I've questioned my sanity to call picking rocks an enjoyable activity. So it became justified as an artistic outlet. :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Too Much News

Lately, there has been too much news over my morning breakfast. Hearing politicians blather on, I want to ask:
  • After reduced taxes for close to ten years, how come the unemployment rate approaches 10%. Why should it get better in the next two years.
  • Since when did a millionaire become part of the middle class.
  • Really! How many small business owners have a taxable income of a million dollars.
  • Which lobby groups did you talk to this morning... yesterday.
Just wondering:
  • Why lame duck legislative sessions.
  • Will the legislative standoff continue for two more years.
  • Why! 2012 presidential hopefuls are already running polls.
Rather than any more wondering, today is for wandering around the hills of Palm Springs.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Holiday Creosote Bush

Naming trails after geographic features or in memory of some local person, the Bump and Grind Trail is unusually named. The trail's 1000 foot elevation gain in under two miles is a favorite for many of the runners and walkers in the Palm Springs area.

The end of the hike dead ends on a flattened hilltop large enough for "way too many people". There were about five or six when I arrived. The large open space has a single creosote bush decorated for the holidays.

Close up there was a reflection in one of the ornaments. Recognized that guy. Objects are closer than they appear.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

History Repeats

Book: Last Call by Daniel Okrent

The book is the history of the prohibition amendment to the US constitution enacted in 1919 and repealed in 1933. The prohibition was of intoxicants (beer, wine, distilled spirits) in the United States. A well researched book that details the participants on either side of the issue, their histories, how it progressed, the politics used in the process and how eventually it became law. And once law, how prohibition was unenforceable. Then there was the unintended consequences as gangs formed to control the trade and dispensing of the illegal intoxicants. Sound familiar?

Have we learned nothing from past history. Can't legislate personal morality. How about we legalize marijuana and tax it heavily like alcohol items and cigarettes.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Carrizo Canyon

Carrizo Canyon is open for hiking from October 1 to December 31. Met that deadline. The hike begins along a wide open wash continuing to narrow to more branching small canyons. Vegetation is limited to flora tolerant of this arid and hot land like this smoke tree.

Walking the trail in the canyon is rock hopping and climbing over rock falls with side canyons for exploring and returning to the trail. In several pockets and dead ends of the canyons, there are the California Fan Palm. Seems hard to believe that there is enough water runoff or underground water to keep these palms alive. But there is.

The canyon is closed the rest of the year to protect the big horn sheep. Didn't see any on my hike. Another hiker (who frequently hikes here) said he saw one a couple of days earlier. Seeing big horn sheep is being in the right place at the right time. I wasn't.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Today Is Living

My brother Dennis died at the young age of 67. Born on February 7, 1943, Dennis was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's less than two years ago. Rapidly progressing and destroying brain function, the disease claimed his life this morning -- November 30, 2010.

Dennis and I were born three years apart and born after our older sister, Lois. Dennis and I left our Wisconsin farm home at the same time in 1962. That was when I headed to Madison to complete my university education. Dennis joined the Air Force.

Individually, Dennis and I pursued our separate lives far from our folks and relatives in Wisconsin. After Dennis retired from the Air Force after 23 years, he and his family resided in California and eventually in Oregon. Most of my working years were in Colorado. With our geographic separation, we rarely saw each other.

Meeting Dennis and his wife Karen for a recent August breakfast in Salem, Oregon, it was a shock to realize that Dennis did not recognize me. The Alzheimer's had already claimed much of his brain and function to the point that he had essentially regressed to a child like state.

Karen, daughters Stacie and Candi, friends and local hospice were Dennis' support for his last days allowing him to stay at home where he died.

There are lots of one line quotes about living each and every day to the fullest. It is the personal experience of a younger brother dying that makes the advice all the more real.

Yesterday and tomorrow are only thoughts. Today is living.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Black Friday Preferred Location

...was atop this ridge with this creosote bush enjoying the clear air and admiring the view.

At the same time according to internet news, 138 million were expected to be shopping at the malls and big box stores on Black Friday. Some were shopping at midnight. Sounds like insanity to me.

Have to wonder.... Where did they come up with that 138 million. That is 44% of the US population of 311 million people (according to the US census web site). Seems amazing when one thinks about 44% of the population shopping.

With 21% of the population under the age of 14, those probably weren't shopping. Another 10% are over 70 years of age -- probably not big time shoppers. Recent number of unemployed is at just over six million for another two percent and shouldn't be shopping. Then there are those who are employed and not out shopping. Based on more government data, there are about 140 million in the work force. Make the wild assumption that 70 million of those are working on that Friday for another 22%. About 1% of the population is institutionalized in some form or another.

That leaves a very small percentage who don't shop -- or at least weren't shopping. Good for them.

Considering I was in the over 70 category, I had better things to do.

Postscript: The shopping didn't end on Black Friday. The following Sunday I was driving past a shopping center and noticed there was not a parking space to be had on the far edges of the parking lot.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Bit Cold Here

Staying current with weather around the country, a low of 29 doesn't sound too bad, but I didn't think Palm Springs would drop to those low temps. But it did. Fortunately, that was outside. Took a while, but with clear skies, the sun was welcome and managed to get the temps up to a shorts attire day of 63.

Once it warmed up, it was time to relocate to another Palm Springs area RV park for the next month -- perhaps longer. Predictions are for continued warming with highs back in the 70s in a few days. Looking forward to sprawling on a rock and absorbing heat -- like this lizard.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pre Thanksgiving Hike

With the prospect of Thanksgiving just a few days away, it seemed a good idea to get out for some hiking to prepare for the inevitable over eating -- of something.

Along with cooler weather across the US, Palm Springs wasn't left out. Mid 60s is the predicted high temperatures for the week with lows in the 40s. Those cooler temperatures were created by the retailers to get shoppers into the warm stores on the upcoming Black Friday.

Cool weather is good hiking weather as long as I don't start to early in the morning. 50 degree temperatures and a wind can make the shorts seem like a bad idea. But I tough it out -- for a while. The intended destination was the Herman Trail at Coachella Valley Preserve. After slugging it out for some time, I arrived at the trail head. Noting the switch backs ahead, I no longer cared about hiking and called that point the end of the trail.

Nature's beauty of desert flora with an occasional oasis provide marvels of survival in an arid terrain. At a palm oasis, I wondered why there were the sharp serrations (checked it out -- it hurts) along the axil of the frond of the California Fan Palm. An interesting evolutionary adaptation for some reason. Can't imagine what.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Stylish Fins

A car show and auction in Palm Springs was a retro look at car styles. Fins were the thing to make a statement or to differentiate one model from another. Fortunately, the fin craze came and went.

From a 1954 Cadillac to the 1960 Chevrolet with gull wings to the whale tail of the 1960 Plymouth.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Upscale Homeless

Having a chai at Starbucks in a Palm Springs suburb a few days ago. Occasionally I glance up from the iPad as a page is reloading to observe the coffee clientele. That was when I noted a guy at the register dressed in a dirty camouflage jump suit and cap. He banged his hand to get attention of Starbucks staff. Either he knew the staff or it was his style, but I couldn't hear anything that may have been said.

Later when I left, I noted the guy sitting by a window holding a newspaper with a cup in front of him on the table. The scruffy camouflage attire was complete with the week old beard and wispy long mustache. Walking outside into the parking lot, this truck looked very similar to shopping carts the homeless push around with garbage bags hanging off all sides.

Was the owner of this truck on the way to the landfill. Didn't seem possible with the garbage bags tied securely to the back of the truck. Maybe it was moving day. Perhaps one of those "hoarders" that I've read about.

I could have staked out the parking lot waiting for some one to get into the truck, but I assumed the derelict looking Starbucks customer was the owner of this late model truck that resembled a homeless shopping cart. (Sorry. Didn't want to be obvious with a photo op since the truck was visible from Starbucks front window.)

Could this be homelessness in the posh suburbs of Palm Springs where the gated communities are extensively landscaped and plant life is groomed within an inch of death.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Internet Stuff

Social networking.... No Facebook, Twitter or any of the other social networking for me. Not sure what I would post there that I don't already share here on my blog. The few times that I have joined those sites in the past, it was only days before I realized that it reminded me of over heard conversations while sitting at a bar. No real depth to any of the conversation.

Thumbs Up/Down icons.... Then there are the "up or down" voting icons that seem to appear on many sites these days. That is taking the short attention span of Facebook and Twitter to another level. The person doesn't have to write a single word why it ranked as a like or dislike. I want to know why. Once again there no depth to the conversation.

Regarding Blogspot Followers.... For those of you who may feel left out that I don't have your blog on the "Blogspot Followers" gadget, I apologize. Before I started blogging with Blogspot, I had been following blogs via the RSS function with Google Reader. I've continued that approach to following (too many) bloggers.

Data throughput.... Internet speeds continue to degrade over the Verizon air-card. Along with thousands of cell phone apps and the capability to download audio and video media to the cell phone or computer, it is no surprise that data throughput continues to decline.

Wi-Fi sites are not much better. They also experience too much downloading of data over a network incapable of supporting the demand. That's been my experience at Starbucks since their Wi-Fi is now free. In a recent visit to a Starbucks at a Palm Springs suburb, I counted eleven lap tops inside the store. Not sure how many more were outside. That was in addition to the iPad that I was using -- with very slow response times. 

Have to wonder if this throughput will improve when G4 is available. As the users migrate to the G4 capable devices and with more G4 networks, they will also become bogged down in the data throughput requirements. That's my prediction. Any bets on G5 in the future?

That is enough venting for today. To close this entry, some morning glory blossoms.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Photo Favorite

This photo was taken (May 2008) at the Battle Rock school house located about ten miles west of Cortez, Colorado. My reason for stopping was the building constructed with local sand stone. Built about 1910 plus or minus a few years, the out houses still exist, but are not longer in use. They have been replaced with indoor plumbing in a school addition.

Today the building is a charter school of about 30 children for kindergarten to grade 6. When I arrived, the school was between classes which allowed me to tour the inside. The personal computers along the walls were an interesting feature of a one room school built almost 100 years ago with out electricity and outdoor plumbing.

As I left, I crossed the irrigation ditch in front of the school to see this young man showing his tree climbing prowess. When asked if it was okay to take a photo, the result was his some what surly expression.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cannibal Burger

That was the title of the podcast that I downloaded this morning from A Way With Words.

The first call from a listener asked if the cannibal burger was unique to Milwaukee. Discussion followed with the what, where and how. Grossed out one of the hosts.

The caller described the cannibal burger the way I remembered it. It is ground sirloin (or very lean beef sliced very thin) on German rye bread, a slab of onion, mustard, salt and pepper. Absolutely delicious.

My dining is mostly vegetarian with lots of salads with a meat meal thrown in now and then for variety. Then there are those times when raw fish (sashimi) is the choice when I dine out. From there it is easy to consider a raw beef. At least for me.

Since cannibal burger might be considered gauche at French restaurants, it is called steak tartare. Never did like their interpretation of raw beef. Just give me the style that I had back in the farming community taverns around 1960.

In the 21st century, there probably isn't a restaurant anywhere that would serve raw beef. To get a pink and bloody centered hamburger, the restaurant requires a signed form to hold the restaurant harmless should your become ill.

Looks like a sirloin steak will be coming home with me on my next visit to the grocer.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Aerial Farm View

Found a scanned copy of an aerial view of the farm where I grew up. That is where I milked cows, drove tractor, harvested the crops, and performed some other smelly tasks that are also part of dairy farming. I also sneezed and wheezed with the asthma and hay fever. And survived the whole ordeal. Good place to learn how to work. And the instructions only came once. There was always something to do around a farm.

There were probably aerial photographs of farms as soon as there were planes. The earliest that I remember was a black and white view taken about 1949. It has disappeared with lots of other stuff that Dad did not deem worth keeping. Fortunately, this 1961 aerial photo survived.

With a little Photoshop effort, the arial photo of the farm was modified to be a reasonable representation of the farm buildings in 1950 plus or minus a year.

The photo reminds me of my most frequent childhood fantasy of playing the cowboy. A dairy farm looks nothing like a mythological western cattle ranch as depicted in movie westerns with mountains and wide open spaces. It does take a bit of imagination to create that western cowboy scene including the western town and saloon. In my early teen years with more farming responsibilities, the fantasy play stopped.

Fortunately, Dad had always loved horses. With enough begging, eventually Dad bought a horse when I was fourteen.

Earlier this year in my previous blog space, the entry Shattered Myth details how fantasy sets some unrealistic expectations.

While creating this entry, I checked the satellite photos of the farm at Google Mapping. The house and barn are about the only things that remain after 50 years. Today, newer structures dwarf the house (built 1911) and barn (foundation built 1916). Checked the terrestrial (courtesy of Google) view from highway 96 about a quarter of a mile away. Trees hide much of the house and there is a cell tower less than a hundred yards from the barn.

The cell tower reminds me of the wall mounted "crank" phone that was at that house when I moved to San Francisco in 1965. Hmm. That looks like a story for another post.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Election 2012

Just when I thought the elections were over, this morning I heard some who are already planning the fate of the 2012 election. For something more pleasant, how about this rain blessed lily.

For me, Cal Thomas and Bob Beckel best summarize the election and the next two years in their USA Today column: Will compromise be a four letter word.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)  appears to be doing the job a legislator is supposed to do. He proposes a Roadmap to address the ever escalating Federal budget. His proposal addresses medicare, social security, taxation, etc. to bring the Federal budget back into control. No doubt his proposal has problems. All legislation has problems. However, it would be great if the federal legislative bodies actually talked about any one of the major items in his proposal -- let alone all his points. Considering most Senators and Congressmen are in those legislative bodies to establish tenure, there are few that would vote on any of these issues for fear that they would not get re-elected.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Couldn't Resist

Sorry about that, but the palm frond seemed to be begging for a little Photoshop graffiti...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Shadow Knows

For a little trivia....

For those old enough to remember radio, what rhetorical question precedes the line "The Shadow knows".

The answer: "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?"

For extra credit, what was the name of the Shadow's alter-ego.

The answer: Lamont Cranston

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cute. Efficient. Compact.

When giving tours of Wandrin Wagon's less than 200 square feet, those are some of the comments I've heard. Some would say that I may have taken minimalism a bit too seriously. Some have wondered out loud how I could live in something so small. Have to wonder what could make my home better or more livable. My home has a complete kitchen with a table and chair, a bed, and a bathroom. I "want" for nothing more in a home. A larger RV would have more floor space, more furniture, more slides, etc. All of that would mean -- more maintenance.

That 200 square feet is more than enough space to drag around all the basics for a home from dishes, to linens, to a few cleaning supplies. Unfortunately, that leaves enough space for a few things that I "want" to make my living more interesting -- such as a computer, iPad, iPod, cameras, (too many) books and satellite radio.

Minimalism is an important criteria when differentiating wants from needs. Perhaps the country's financial crisis could have been averted if more of the consuming public had been able to determine the difference.

If a minimalist home is your thing, check out Tumbleweed Houses to see some truly small plans for homes.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Snow On The Pumpkin

Not much chance of seeing snow on pumpkins in the Coachella Valley and the Palm Springs area. The day time temps are some where in the 80s. Night time temps get into the fifties most every night.

It's great and I'm wearing shorts every day. Actually, any time the temps are above 50, I am wearing shorts.

This is my kind of weather.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hidden Palms Hike

The nearby Coachella Valley Preserve has several hiking trails over the desert terrain to the various palm "forests" that have found a water source along the San Andreas fault. Mostly marked trails, it is still a good idea to pay attention -- or bring a map. Familiar with the trails from previous year's hiking, this hike was a good excuse to get some badly needed exercise.

The trail/road at Hidden Palms.

The top of a palm tree is back lit by a mid morning sun.

Some portions of the trail are a challenge to a guy with balance problems.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Balancing The Ugly

Found myself in the Ford dealer's waiting room as Silver Slug was having an oil change. Passing time while reading on my iPad, another customer decided that the TV would be the perfect way to catch up on the news. After scanning the channels, he settled on some "news channel" (or is that opinion). With the shouting and the slurring political ads, it became hard to concentrate on what I was reading. I put the iPad away and headed out to wander around the car/truck lot.

Later back at Wandrin Wagon I was still stressing over what passed for TV news. Later in the day, I ended up at my Mac computer. The first random photo that appeared on the Mac's screen happened to be this rose. I needed that -- to balance the ugly.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Car Show

The Palm Springs Air Museum was the location for a benefit with Chili Cookoff and car show. When it was possible to identify a car without looking at the logo, there was this 1964 Lincoln with a return to the "suicide doors" of the 1930s. I've always liked the simple lines of unstated elegance of the car.

There were other cars at the show that were restored to stock condition. There was a 1930 Cadillac (V16) and a 1930 era Rolls Royce among others.

There were also the usual recognizable shape of cars of years ago, but the car became something else as a result of the restorer's interpretation with the engine being the focus of the car. The hood is up and the engine has no grime -- anywhere.

In those long ago days, the cars were identifiable. Today, the only way to find a Lincoln in a parking lot is to look for the Lincoln logo. No unique styling today. They all resemble each other -- including colors.... And a luxury brand with a SUV model. What is this world coming to.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Shop Class As Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford

I could not improve on the book summary found on the cover of the book:

"On both economic and psychological grounds, Crawford questions the educational imperative of turning everyone into a “knowledge worker,” based on a misguided separation of thinking from doing, the work of the hand from that of the mind. Crawford shows us how such a partition, which began a century ago with the assembly line, degrades work for those on both sides of the divide."

The author asks questions with the implication who is going to repair the cars, the plumbing problem, the electrical problem, remodeling your home, etc. The design of cars these days is that the on board computers will determine where the problem is. Sometimes it may be right, but other times a wrong diagnosis requires a human brain to resolve the issue. Where will that skill come from.

Everyone knows a college graduate or post graduates who are looking for jobs to try to pay down the huge loans they took to get through college. And for what. Many have no skills that are readily useful to the hiring company. The college graduate will have to be trained.

Personal education history... I was lucky. Dad thought there was a better future for me than farming. Few boys from the country finished high school. Bouts with asthma and hay fever made me a poor candidate to consider farming as a career.

After the country grade school, it was eleven miles from the farm on the bus to DePere High School. As a farm kid, my roster of classes included an agriculture vocational class. No one really asked what I wanted. I was pretty sure I didn't want to be the part of the fourth generation of Treichel farmers in Morrison township. But there I was in Ag class and learned some tool skills and the latest in agriculture knowledge from the University of Wisconsin Ag School. However, since I had no intention of farming, that was the last year of vocational training in a classroom. After that it was all academia for me through the University of Wisconsin.

Yup. I proved that I could complete the required course work and get the degree. That made me trainable to the Bank of America when they hired me. Soon I was a computer programmer. I was good at it and have continued to enjoy programming. My latest coding was within Excel where I created code to solve Sudoku puzzles. Otherwise the Sudoku puzzles bore me. (Crossword puzzles are my choice. It's one way to stay current with the latest on TV.) 

However, even though I enjoyed programming, it was eight hours of mind numbing activity. To balance that mind numbing activity, my diversions over the years included: Wine making. Projects created of wood. House remodeling, Decks. Gardening. Hiking. Others included the search for the greatest cinnamon roll.

Data Processing or Information Technology was my ride to retirement with the last 15 years working for the computer manufacturer. It was a great ride. After all that academic training, when programming, I was essentially doing vocational work -- cranking out code. I was lucky. Right place. Right Time. Today many programming jobs are sent over seas where hourly rates are less.

Education today.... Considering drop out rates, does anyone ever ask why? Does anyone ever ask if academia is the right course for everyone. Perhaps we could keep some of those kids in school if there was something they could relate to. Today's education systems rarely have any kind of vocational program in the high school.

There is a serious problem in our education system. Each person is different with motivations and interests. Basic book education is important -- the three Rs. However, at some point there may be a better direction for some students. How about recognizing that everyone is not academically interested and allow students a vocational track after ninth grade.

That doesn't mean the student must stay on that track. After testing some phases of the vocational world, perhaps the academic world may be more attractive to the student. Same thing applies to the academic inclined. Perhaps the basics of car repair would be of interest.

Finally, how about a high school level course in "basic" economics and financial matters for all students -- from a check book, to a credit card, to planning for the future with savings.

The current education system doesn't seem to be working. Perhaps some new methods and approaches are required after doing education the same way for over a 100 years. This is not a good place for tradition.

Note: The photo was taken in the four stall "milking parlor" that Dad built in the early 50s. That was some of my vocational training. On the job milking cows.  Photo taken when I was 18/19.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wine Industry

Touring wine country around Paso Robles, once again I am amazed at the wine tasting buildings that are built at the wineries. The various themed buildings range in size from small and intimate to stadium sized structures. Some of the more opulent are built in a sprawling western style. Others use a castle motif including moat. I suspect much of the assets are a tax write off for the wealthy owner because of the agricultural connection.

Wondering how many California acres are planted to grape vineyards, I searched the internet. According to estimates in 2005, there are about 530,000 acres for wine grapes. Add to that another 350,000 acres of table grapes and raisin grapes. That total acreage is greater than the size of the state of Rhode Island. According to the Wine Institute, there were 2972 wineries in California in 2009. It appears there continues to be a demand for more wine as I noted many additional acres being prepared for grapes.

Using stone and brick in the construction of the winery tasting building seems to be the other common feature of the buildings. Much of the architectural detail is in the doors.

Wine tasting has gotten rather expensive. $10 isn't an unusual charge for three or four small tastes. Of course you get to keep the logo etched wine glass -- sometimes. Those wine glasses don't travel well in RVs -- without proper packing. Since my alcohol of preference is Crown Royal Whiskey or Christian Brothers Brandy, there really isn't much appeal for me at a wine tasting. Then there are sulfides which my body doesn't tolerate.