Monday, March 30, 2015

My Bike


This picture is from a few days ago. Doesn't look like Arizona, does it?  Looks more like somewhere in the African Serengeti, and that's why I like it. No aspirations of going to Africa, but it fascinates me nonetheless.

My bicycle seat is pointed slightly up in this picture, an issue I've been having for awhile, I adjust, set it level, tighten it as much as I can, and it points up every time I ride it. Finally, think I got it right.

Not only did I re-grease the seat attachment screw, and scuffed up the top of the seat post a bit with sand paper, what I did different was to add grease to the washer, which forms the seal between the screw and the seat post attachment clamp, that intermediary which attaches the seat to the post. So far so good.

Went for a ten mile ride today, over very bumpy roads, and it's holding up. A minor accomplishment. Bike love everybody. Subtle bicycle tips thinly veiled, only available to those who read everything, especially what is between the lines. My gift to the world.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

I Live in a Van Down by the River!

 "I live in a van down by the river!"

Okay, not really, but I've always gotten a kick out of saying that. Actually, if I had a driver's license, which I don't, and if I had money to buy a van, which I don't, I would probably be living in a van down by the river.

Why? Because a) I despise debt, and b) I hate spending a lot of money on housing, and c) it's much easier to live simply and frugally if you don't have to pay rent, and d) living in a van is a dirt cheap option that seems a tad bit more secure than living in a tent, and a bit roomier than living in a car, and offers much more freedom and independence than sleeping on someone else's couch, or living in your parents basement for the rest of your life.

In other words, you could save a lot of money by living in a van.

It's probably not an ideal long-term strategy, but it certainly beats being homeless, or the servitude of being heavily in debt, assuming that living in a van can be viewed as a tool for eliminating debt, and living debt free.

That's what this book I just finished reading is about, it's called Walden On Wheels: On the Open Road From Debt to Freedom by Ken Ilgunas. I gave it 2 out of 5 stars on goodreads.com. But if it were an option, I would have given it a 2.5, because the subject matter interests me, and his writing is good, but the content falls a bit short from what I had hoped for.

First of all, two thirds of the book has nothing at all to do with living in a van. So the title, and front cover picture of the book, is a bit misleading. Mostly it's about a recent college graduate who finds himself heavily in debt, with no marketable job prospects, traveling across the country (mostly by flying, but also by hitchhiking), working odd jobs to pay off his student loan debt, and this is done by taking low paying jobs, mostly in Alaska (he's from western New York) but because they include free room and board, he's able to save quite a bit, and pay off his loans in just a couple of years. Anyway, once he pays off his thirty-something-thousand-dollars worth of debt, he goes back to grad school, which he is able to afford, without taking out any loans, by living in his van, and the last third of the book is devoted to that.

Okay, it's not a terrible book, he's actually a pretty good writer, but it's no Walden, far from it. The problem is it reads like someone who is able to write well about things he doesn't know much about. In other words, he's a bit shallow, but also somewhat sweet, in a naive boyish sort of way. I don't mean this as a personal attack, or insult, I don't know this person, and I could be way off in my assessment, but that is the impression I got from this book.

And if you want to get a good feel for the overall vibe of this book, and the reason why I felt that this book did not speak to my heart, and that this person is on a totally different wavelength from myself, and that made this book impossible to love, here's a quote from the book, in the author's words himself, that speaks volumes:

While I admired the works of the great American nature lover John Muir and, later, Henry David Thoreau, I never really understood the glorification of nature. Thoreau saw the world in the veins of a maple leaf, and Muir, it seemed, could find God in a mouse turd. Nature, to them, was transcendence, beauty, divinity. To me, nature was more like a football field or hockey rink in which games are won and lost.

I guess that's what really turned me off, it's not just this particular passage, but the fact that even if he hadn't said this, the sentiment behind these words is pretty much felt throughout the entire book. Even though he longed to experience more, to see the world as Muir and Thoreau did, to form a spiritual connection with the natural world, you get the feeling from this book that he never did. Okay, maybe he did, who knows, but that experience did not make it into this book. And so, even though the subject matter interests me, that of living frugally and simply and debt-free and close to nature, this book didn't resonate much with me, it fell a bit short. It was an okay read, not entirely worthless, but it could have been better.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Foolishness of Not Using Soap

A few days ago I read a book by Mark Boyle called The Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomic Living. It's an interesting concept, and I found it to be a pretty fast and easy read, but ultimately it was nothing special, was actually a bit boring and shallow, and definitely no Walden.

I don't really want to get into a thorough review of this book here, and I could probably write several stand-alone posts based upon many of the ideas touched upon in this book, and maybe I will, but for now I just want to address one thing advocated by the author that really bothers me, and that kind of totally turned me off to everything else he wrote, which was his rejection of using soap.

Okay, I'll admit it, I have a soap fetish, but not just any soap, I love using my Dr. Bronner's Magic Peppermint Soap. My day does not feel right without a shower using my favorite soap, and if a shower's not possible, at least some sort of sponge bath, washing my armpits, my face, and my hands. If I don't do that, I feel grungy. Washing with soap and water boosts my spirits, makes me feel stronger, more energized, more focused, and more productive. I would never voluntarily go without soap.

Okay, that's a personal preference, a preference not shared by all. I've read about the negatives of shampoo damaging your hair, stripping your scalp of its natural oils, and leaching toxic chemicals into your bloodstream. Not all soaps and shampoos are equal. Some contain toxic additives and perfumes. Many do in fact dry out the skin. But it's one thing to take a shower without using soap, and still maintaining some degree of cleanliness, and yet another to advocate not washing your hands with soap ever again.

I cringed as I read about him in this book talking about not using soap, and in the next section going on to describe using his outdoor humanure toilet, where he then goes on to shave (of course without soap), and then prepares his food, all with no mention of washing his hands.

He says the same thing in his follow-up book The Moneyless Manifesto, where he gets into more specific detail about it, basically saying that he considers the use of soap to be completely unnecessary, its use being more so a matter of personal preference used for cosmetic reasons rather than being necessary for good health and hygiene. Okay, maybe that's true for your hair. Maybe that's even true for the rest of your body to some extent, as far as your armpits and face and crotch is concerned, where washing with clean water may suffice, but its not true for hand washing.

Certainly washing your hands with just water is better than not washing your hands at all, but washing your hands with soap and (clean) water is probably the single most important innovation made in medicine for the prevention of disease.

But Mark Boyle does not mention this in his books. He appears to be blissfully unaware of it, and in his ignorance he is giving out some very bad and very dangerous advice having potentially deadly consequences.

It just goes to show you that you've got to be very careful when you're reading information concerning health and safety advice coming from non-scientists, and that you shouldn't uncritically believe everything you read, people can and do advocate bad ideas, and get those bad ideas published in books, ideas that are either untrue or dangerous to your health and safety if you follow them.

Read up about it, there's tons of information online from reputable sources, about why, at least when it comes to washing your hands, it's unwise to forgo the soap.

***

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention handwashing with soap and water saves lives. 

***

And via umcor.org:

"Washing hands thoroughly, in flowing water and, best of all, with soap, is vital for counteracting infectious diseases that claim so many lives every year around the world.
Handwashing with soap has been described aptly as a “do-it-yourself vaccine.” It’s a simple and highly effective way to combat diarrheal bacteria and the pathogens that carry typhoid, cholera and all the other common gastro-enteric infections. It also fights many respiratory infections like influenza and pneumonia.
Research shows that children who live in households that understand the message of handwashing with soap, experience half the incidence of diarrhea that other children do. Ingraining the habit of handwashing can, it’s believed, save more lives than any single vaccine or other medical intervention."

***

Concerning handwashing technique (via infectioncontroltoday.com):

"The aim of handwashing is to remove microorganisms from the hands, preventing their potential transfer. It is known that organisms survive and multiply on human hands, creating the opportunity to infect others or the host.6 Handwashing reduces the number of transient organisms on the skin surface. Although hands cannot be sterilized, most transient organisms can be removed by 30 seconds of proper scrubbing with soap and water. Proper scrubbing would include vigorous motion with the hands rubbing together and fingers working in between the finger web space and inclusive of the dorsal and ventral surfaces of the hands. Microbes that reside in sweat ducts and hair follicles of the skin, however, cannot be dislodged readily. Surveys show that one in five medical professionals carry potentially pathogenic antibiotic-resistant pathogens on his or her hands. Handwashing by medical professionals occurs at only 30% of the ideal rate. Failure to wash one's hands before and after each patient contact is probably the most important contributor to the spread of infections."

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Hellish Conditions

Well, no pictures for the first day of Spring, but I did go for a bike ride. Road about eleven miles. Picked up some beer. Stopped at the park, did a few pullups.

I prefer riding on quiet country roads, but when I go shopping, there's pretty much no alternate route to avoid the busy traffic. I live just outside the city and going into the city I have to pass through some very busy intersections, and I'm developing a problem, perhaps you could call it a health problem, a sensitivity to the pollution from the car exhaust.

Whenever it gets hot, or pretty much temperatures at or above 80, which is what we're getting into now, and I get caught at a red light at a busy intersection, I feel like I can't breath, like I'm borderline going to have a medical emergency, but as soon as the traffic resumes, and I accelerate, I feel fine, I feel a cool breeze, and can finally breath again.

That happened to me today. It was the worst I ever felt, a longer light than usual, I thought I wasn't going to make it. I'm thinking it may be a panic attack, but it's not just that, there really is some bad pollution, with all the cars and trucks idling, but at the same time I think it's partly psychological, panicking over the precarious situation that I'm in, riding the bike lane sandwiched in and pretty much trapped with nowhere to escape between two lanes of bumper to bumper traffic on both my left and right sides, with there being six lanes in total.

And meanwhile the hot sun is beating down on me, cooking me alive, and there is limited oxygen. It's really like hellish conditions. Just the intersections though, as soon as we're moving, it's much better. I mention it because it was the worst I ever had it today, and ironically I didn't even have any beer last night, no hangover effects to explain the deficit, but I had a really hard time, probably because of the allergy problems I've been having the last couple of weeks, sneezing, watering eyes, scratchy throat. Yeah, allergies, hot air, and air pollution, do not mix. It makes for conditions that are pretty much a hell on earth.

Once I got passed that particularly hellish intersection, of course I had to take a break. As soon as the light turned green I got out of there and pulled off the road as fast as I could. I'm trying to bring my heart rate down. Drinking water. Standing in the shade. I'm noticing the smell of creosote bush, and it was making me sick. I never liked that smell. In fact, I never much liked the desert smells. I do like the desert, don't get me wrong, but just that some of the desert smells give me a headache. In case you didn't know, creosote kind of smells like turpentine. I know it's supposed to have some therapeutic antiseptic value, but I never liked it. So anyway, it took me awhile to regain my balance, because between the car exhaust and some of these desert plant smells I was having a really hard time getting a fresh lungful of air.

So, it's still March, soon to be April, which means we got maybe two months left before it gets awfully hot, which means above 100 degrees. Will I ever go on my bicycle tour before then? I'm sad to say that it looks unlikely. But we'll do what we can.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Know Your Worth

Found this on Facebook, and thought it was worth sharing:

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

"YOUR VALUE DOES NOT
DECREASE
BASED ON SOMEONE'S
INABILITY TO SEE YOUR
WORTH."

by unknown author

The point of this statement is that you've got to believe in yourself, to have confidence in yourself, and most importantly you've got to love yourself, because you cannot always rely on other people being there for you, saying what you need to hear, and giving you the support that you need when you need it the most.

I think it's also saying that every person's life has value, even if they aren't all personally valuable to you, they are valuable to someone, somewhere, especially to themselves.

Reminds me of this Buckminster Fuller quote I posted recently:

"EVERYBODY IS A GENIUS. BUT IF YOU JUDGE A FISH BY ITS ABILITY TO CLIMB A TREE, IT WILL LIVE ITS WHOLE LIFE BELIEVING THAT IT IS STUPID."

That's what happens when the fish lacks confidence in its own abilities and disregards its own vision of what matters, allowing its value to be decreased by those that don't recognize the value of swimming. Swimming and the ability to live and breath underwater is a valuable skill for a fish, but not so much for a bird or squirrel. If you listen to the birds who advocate the virtues of flying, and the squirrels who advocate the virtues of climbing, but who do not recognize the virtues of swimming, and you are unable to fly or climb, well than you will have been misled by those with limited vision, certainly by those who don't really have your own best interests in mind.

That's a problem many people have, and it's certainly a problem I have, that of defining what they value, and devaluing anyone that doesn't fit that model.

Some of my models are physical fitness, simple living, appreciation for nature, vegetarian diet, mental discipline, yoga, meditation, riding a bicycle and walking, not owning or driving a car.

I sometimes hold people to my standards, look down on people who have aversion to exercise, are fat, lazy, don't recycle, eat a lot of junk food, live a materialistic lifestyle, are loud, obnoxious, disrespectful of nature. Okay, there is a certain type I don't like, but my judging is a waste of time. It's not like my opinion is going to change the daily fast food eater into a vegetarian yogi. You've got fatsos, who love to eat, and are perfectly happy and content the way they live; and you've got fitness freaks who enjoy the struggle of going without, suffering the burden of lifting heavy weights and running many miles. Each likes to think maybe they are the best way. But both are going to die, so maybe the differences are not that big in the end.

No, I'm like a high flying bird, condemning the fat squirrels below that can't fly. Not that eating junk food is a virtue, but it's really not my place to criticize what other people eat. After all some people consider my way the wrong way. I'm sure that for everything I support and like, there's probably someone out there against it.

You do your thing. I'll do mine. Birds gravitate to other birds. Fish gravitate to other fish. Problem is when a bird tries to become a fish, and a fish tries to become a bird: smart fish become dumb bird, and smart bird become dumb fish.

You get problems when you complain about things that can't be changed, and when you try to force things to become something their not.

Like for instance, I like to complain about how much I hate living where I'm living. It's too hot. It's too dry. Not enough rain. I could also say something about the people, the culture, the politics, but I won't. The point is most of the things I dislike about this place are totally normal to it, and therefore unchangeable; it's part of the package, it goes with the territory. The problem isn't the place, it's that I'm expecting the place to be something it's not.

I'm pretty sure most of our problems with people stems from similar expectations that cannot be met.  Negatively judging fish for their inability to climb trees could be extended to all differences between people, differences of religion and politics and diet and lifestyle. Conservatives are mad at liberals for not being conservative; liberals are mad at conservatives for not being liberal. People are mad at people who are unlike themselves, or who do not condone or support their own choices or behavior. Yes, is mad at No. Etc. Etc. It's a losing operation however you look at it.

The point is there are way too many differences to ever be totally reconciled. We're not all going to get along. We're not all going to like each other. No matter how right you believe you are, and you could be totally enlightened, and yet, even so, there's ALWAYS going to be someone that opposes you, someone whose vision for the world is incompatible with your own.

Okay, that's because birds see the world differently from fish, and squirrels see the world differently then birds and fish. Okay. You cannot depend on other people with an incompatible vision to back you up. Not everyone's going to love you and support you, you've got to first of all know yourself, to believe in yourself, to love yourself and support yourself. And be strong.

It doesn't really matter what anybody else thinks about you, your opinion of yourself is what matters. That is the meaning of these two passages.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Not So Comfortable


Okay, short story. Went on my weekly run to Trader Joe's today (Sunday). Stopped outside this Comfort Suites for a quick break. Decided to take a picture of my bicycle next to this lovely sign. Notice the white sign next to the door. If you click on the picture, it'll enlarge and you should be able to read it.

It's funny. It says: PARK AT YOUR OWN RISK. NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR DAMAGE OR THEFT TO VEHICLES OR VEHICLE CONTENTS.

Wow. What a way to make a person feel comfortable. After all, they are the Comfort Suites. Just had to share that. I appreciate irony when I see it.

Other than that my ride went fairly well. The weather is perfect, we only get a couple months of weather like this, you know temperatures in the 70s and 80s when most of the country is still plunged deep in the bitter cold fallout of winter. Then summer comes and you wish you were anywhere but here.

Anyway, on my way back I made a few video clips of my ride through ranch country and the bird sanctuary, but my camera is not very good, is ten years old and I'd be lucky to get ten bucks for it at a pawn shop. In other words, the videos suck. So I have to work out a few bugs there, or maybe get a new camera, ideally a helmet mounted camera for filming while riding my bike, which is something I'd love to do more of. But that'll have to wait, just wanted to keep you up to date.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Bored Aloofness

Finally started reading Ask the Dust by John Fante. It's the semi-autobiographical story of a young struggling Italian-American writer from Colorado who moves to Los Angeles in the 1930s to make a life for himself. So far it's not as good as I had imagined it to be. So far I'm thinking I preferred The Brotherhood of the Grape. That one I'd recommend. But it's still fairly early to say. I only wanted to talk about it to share one passage from the book that I wanted to comment on.

This is in reference to a waitress in a bar who when approached to answer a question was described as "widening her eyes in an expression of bored aloofness."

An expression of bored aloofness.

I've seen it many times in the eyes of sales clerks, looking like they would rather be anywhere but here and are just going through the motions. It shows in their eyes, as glazed and distant. Usually the eye contact is minimal or nonexistent, but if the eyes do meet it's as if they aren't really seeing you. Everything is forced. The smile, if there is one, is not genuine. The words are like a script, repeated like a robot without emotion, who couldn't care less. It's all routine. Just going through the motions. There's no respect. No real communication. No desire to form a connection, to understand or relate to the other as a real person, no genuine desire to help, they help because they are obligated to not because they genuinely want to, but instead, you, the other person, the customers they are helping, are seen as a thing, an object in their way; an unpleasant chore, something they are eager to end before it's even begun.

That's what happens when a person is in the wrong job, and they hate their job, have emotionally distanced themselves from it, and are not really there, their mind is elsewhere, their just counting the hours and the minutes until quitting time. Bored aloofness. Yeah. I've seen it many times. Perhaps I too in certain situations have been this way. You're not open. You're closed. When you are open, but the other person is closed, that can be very annoying. It's like talking to someone who is not really listening, who doesn't really care. You're just a number. A thing. A burden. An inconvenience. If you're dealing with a sales clerk, it reflects negatively on the business. The customer service feels cold and unwelcoming. If you're dealing with a regular person who is not "on the clock" it just means there is no possibility for friendship. You are not on the same wavelength. You are here, but they are somewhere else.

If you ever see the look of bored aloofness in someone's eyes, it means that although they may look at you they are not really seeing you. They may register that you are there, but more so as being like an obstacle in their way. They may answer your questions, but having emotionally closed themselves off to you, there is no meeting of the minds. They may as well be a robot. They are on automatic pilot and are eager to get away.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Bike Love



Introducing a new category: bike love. It's all things related to bicycles. Pictures of my bike. Pictures from my bicycle rides. Bicycle tours. Bicycle advice. Featured bicycle blogs. Where I share some of the cool bicycle related websites I've stumbled upon.

The picture above is of my touring bike on one of my weekly grocery runs to Trader Joe's. It's about a ten mile commute give or take, and I've been getting by with rack trunk and backpack. Just enough room for one full bag of grocery's, including two six packs of beer.

Rather than start a new blog for it, once in a while, I'll post about it here. You could say I can see a bicycle tour happening soon on the horizon. I've got the bike. I've got the gear. Tent. Sleeping bag. Sleeping pad. Portable water filter. Stove. Panniers. Don't have a whole lot of money though, but I've got a tiny little bit, or at least, I could pack my own food, and go on a short weekend tour, camping on the sly, to unexplored territory within 300 miles of home. It could happen. It should happen. I've been thinking about doing it now for 12 years, and at one point I had plenty of money to go anywhere in the world I wanted to, but something always gets in the way, and the money eventually runs out. But no more. It's now or never. Yeah, my mother is scared to death that I will be raped and murdered by Mexican drug cartel banditos. And yes, it's not as farfetched as it sounds. But I can't let that fear stop me.

Anyway, in the meantime, rather than start a new blog, we've got a new category, and so that should motivate me to write more about it. Hopefully. Only time will tell. After all, it's either this, or nothing. Because in case you haven't noticed, I've officially entered a creative writing slump. Also, my blog theme is presently in a state of crisis. I just can't stand the sight of it, and can't find anything I like, so be forewarned that it'll probably change a hundred times before I settle on something I like. Ironically, I'll probably end up right where I started from. Sort of. That's the irony of my life.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

What I will Do

I started a new notebook today. I've been writing in a journal consistently for over twenty years, but I also have this odd habit of destroying them once I've filled them up. So I have no record of the last twenty years of my paper journals. I guess it's because I don't want anyone reading them, or maybe because I am not satisfied with what I wrote, or feel that the value was in the act of writing them, and not so much in the reading of them. Either way, I feel no loss.

I mention this only because it's been four months now since I last wrote in my personal journal. Meaning that I filled up my last notebook in October, and hadn't started a new one until now. I guess it has been a period of darkness these last few months. All that I've written has been here, and if you are an attentive reader, maybe you've noticed that the content has been nothing special. Maybe it's always been, I mean, after all this blog is just what you would call a personal blog, not striving to be professional here, but even so I guess things have deteriorated somewhat, it's that point where most people would probably have packed it up and called it a day, retiring from this blogging experiment once and for all.

That's because my heart hasn't been into it. Can you tell? Yeah. I try. I try to keep going even though my hearts not completely into it. Something keeps calling me back. I've been forcing myself. But the problem isn't this blog, it isn't with blogging, it's been with writing in general. I just haven't been feeling it. I've been having a creative dry spell, which has been going on longer than it has ever before.

But I started a new paper diary today, didn't write anything personal in it, but used it to write down some notes, some quotes and a list of some books to read.

What I've got so far is a list of books to investigate about understanding money. Not necessarily to read, but to research whether in fact they are worth reading:

Grunch of Giants by R. Buckminster Fuller
The Creature from Jekyll Island by G. Edward Griffin
The Dollar Crisis by Richard Duncan
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism by John Boyle
Empire of Debt by Bill Bonner

I've been reading some business books by Robert Kiyosaki. Not really feeling it though. I read 200 pages of one of his books in full, and skimmed four of his other books, and noticed that he repeats himself a lot. Each book, is a slightly modified version of the other. Meaning, that he recycles a lot of the same material, but just changes the packaging. I think his books are a money making machine. Problem is, their making money for him, but probably not most of the people reading them.

I need to learn more about money. About taxes. About the real world differences between socialism and capitalism. My understanding of it all is somewhat fuzzy.

One thing I know is that focusing my attention on making money as the primary goal of what I do, feels empty and unsatisfying. As much as I need money and wouldn't mind coming into a few million, the idea of being a capitalist, someone whose full-time occupation is committed to getting rich, doesn't really interest me. I'm not a materialistic person, I'm focused on more spiritual things. And yet I need money. We all need money. The society we live in requires it. And more money in a certain sense equals more freedom. So, there is a bit of a conflict here. Between needing money, wanting freedom, and not being interested in money. Yeah, it's illogical. A paradox. Money, love it or hate it, can't live without it. In this case, I think education is the best bet. I need to become better educated about money. And that is what I will do.

***

Quotes from the notebook:

"Everyone is born a genius, but the process of life de-geniuses them."
    -R. Buckminster Fuller

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."
  -Albert Einstein

"Those who do not know history's mistakes are doomed to repeat them."
  -Sir Edmond Burke

"Give me control over a nation's currency, and I care not who makes its laws."
  -Mayer Amschel Rothschild