Saturday, August 31, 2019

Anger Politics & the Politics of Hate

Hate is the new love...

I mentioned before that one reason we left the lake house near Ithaca, New York (besides the staggering taxes) was that we were reviled in both the city and the county.   We lived in the Ledyard County, which is mostly farmers and pretty rural - very conservative social values.  They viewed us as liberal interlopers - "city folk" with skewed values.   And they came to this conclusion without even bothering to get to know us personally.  Hatred is all about snap judgement.

On the other hand, if we drove into nearby Ithaca, New York (nearly 20 miles away) to go shopping or visit a restaurant, we were accused of being too conservative by dint of having Georgia license plates, and the audacity to drive a nice pickup truck (without rust holes in it) or  God Forbid - a BMW convertible.   We were deemed too wealthy, too conservative, too Southern, too... whatever - and again without even bothering to get to know us.

It was an insane place, Central New York, and so we left.

But lately, it seems the whole country- indeed, the whole planet - has followed a similar path.   While traveling in Canada, we were buttonholed more than once by Canadians who wanted to lecture us on how bad Trump was, as if we were personally responsible for his election, or even voted for him.  For the record, a resounding "no" on both points.

You see this a lot today - people angry, white with rage.  They drive with their jaws clenched, tailgating and swerving in and out of traffic.   They hate their fellow man, who they see only as a nuisance to be overcome.

In politics, the effect is amplified by a factor of 1000 - on both sides.  And each side accuses the other of hate-mongering.  The left hates the rich for being rich, the right hates the poor for being poor.  No one is immune from this hate-mongering.

The left claims the right is "bad" because they are racist, islamophobic, or homophobic, or whatever.  And yes, there are people on the right who fit this description, but not all of them.   Meanwhile, the same left that decries the use of "dog whistles" goes on the Internet to decry garbage disposals as being "bougie" - alerting the rest of us to this coded language of hate the left is now using.

In case you are late for class, let me bring you up to date.  If you are a "person of color" or a sexual minority, or female, or of some non-Christian religion, you are OK in their book, by default.  If not, you may still join the club if you decry wealth and live in a van, or better yet, on the street.  So long as you own nothing and have no goals or desires in life, you are a decent human being.

On the other hand, if you think having a nice place to live is a good thing, and owning a car isn't a crime, then you are a "bougie" - which is short for "bourgeois" which is a term used to describe people they will line up against the wall or send off to "re-education" camps, once they are in power.

Am I exaggerating a bit for the purpose of entertainment?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  A lot of these angry people on the left don't just want to elect their own candidate, they want to annihilate the opposition.

Lest you think I am being unfair to the left, the right has been playing this game even longer.   "If only we had complete control of both houses of Congress, the Presidency, and the courts!" they whine, "Life in America would be paradise!"    But the "founding fathers" who they so desperately want to blow, were smarter than that, and devised this nice little clockwork known as the Constitution, which has effectively preventing any one party from running the show - for very long - or even getting anything done, if they are in power.

Today, we are not encouraged to talk about policies or positions, but rather personalities and personal foibles.   President Trump's policies merit serious dissection and discussion in the media - sadly this is lacking most of the time, in favor of the latest twitter outrage, which serves only to distract people from what is really going on, which is probably the plan all along.   Every time the New York Times gets its panties in a knot over something Trump says, his supporters shout with joy - because annoying the NYT makes them very, very happy - which is why they love Trump.  Trump trolls the left-wing media and they fall for it every time, like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football held by Lucy van Pelt.

So what's the point of this?   If you find yourself being drawn into a rage against the "other side" - regardless of whether it is left or right - ask yourself how this is helping your own bottom line.   People who live in their parents' basements will go on for hours about how they are outraged over politics.  Folks whose personal lives are a trainwreck, for some reason know all the answers to solve the world's problems - but never their own.

Hating Nancy Pelosi, Trump, or the "Gang of Four" is not constructive use of your time.   Falling into line with their own hate-cues is even worse.    George Orwell, in his dystopian novel, 1984, called it the "two minutes hate" - an opportunity for the State to rile up the people against "the enemy" in a cathartic release of hatred energy, all carefully controlled, of course:
The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one's will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp.[3]
How interesting, when viewed through the prism of today's politics.  Whether it is chants of "Lock her up!" or "Send her back!" at a Trump rally, or chants of "Impeach!" at a Pelosi rally, it makes no difference.  Logical political thought is being replaced by sloganeering and brainwashing.   And it is fun, too, to wallow in the mud, reducing yourself to the lowest level, as Orwell noted.   It isn't hard to get people to do this.

What is hard, is to get people to think.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Backing Up Signals

Backing up a trailer isn't all that difficult, unless people try to "help"

Staying in RV parks, we see a lot of people melt down at the prospect of having to back up a trailer.  Many parks offer "pull-thru" spaces so that people don't have to go into the dreaded reverse.   But it isn't all that hard to back up a trailer, provided you take your time and watch where you are going.  It is helpful to have an assistant who is properly trained to give you signals.  It isn't helpful to have someone screaming at you at the top of their lungs or giving confusing hand signals (such as "hands in the pockets" which means stop, go left, and go right)

And we see it all the time - wives screaming at their husbands to "turn the wheel the other way!" or some helpful nearby camper who runs over offering to "help you back up" only to make things worse.  If you see someone struggling to back up their trailer, let them work it out themselves - they will figure it out eventually.  Your assistance is often not welcome and often makes things worse.

So how do you back up a trailer?   First, get some cheap walkie-talkies at Walmart or the camper store.   It beats having your spouse scream at you across the campground (much to the amusement of the other campers).  Next, learn how to use them

What do I mean by this?
1.  Figure out a channel not being used by other campers, children, or the campground staff:   Listen for a bit or go on the channel and ask if anyone else is on.   Find a channel not being used. 
2.  Learn to PRESS then talk:   In Push-To-Talk (PTT) telephony, you have to push the "talk" button before talking, or your voice is cutoff.  For some reason, Mark likes to press the "talk" button halfway into a sentence, resulting in garbled messages.   Push, then talk.  Then release!
3.  No monologing, no dead-miking:  This isn't the time to do a running commentary on the backing process or life in general, or the squirrel you just saw.  Similarly, filling in the dead spaces with "um" and "ah" isn't helping.  Give brief comments and then let go of the PTT button - so the driver can communicate back.   Dead-miking, which is just holding the "talk" button down all the time has the same effect - no one else can communicate on the channel.
Once you have the protocol on walkie-talkie use down, what sort of instructions should someone give when you are backing up?   As few as possible.   And there are some pointers:
1.  You are not driving:   You are giving helpful signals - you are not driving the tow vehicle.  Don't tell the driver which way to turn the steering wheel or other directions related to the operation of the motor vehicle. 
2. You are a highway cone:  Your main job is to be a parking pylon and mark the corner the driver is to turn into, and later where the end of the trailer should stop.   Not a lot of comments to make other than "STOP!" if the trailer is about to hit a tree.
3. Direct the ass-end of the trailer only:   When you do give directions, tell the driver which way the "ass-end" of the trailer should go, and when doing so, say, "to YOUR right" or "to YOUR left" - that is, the driver's left and right.  Let the driver figure out how to get the trailer there - don't tell him to turn his steering wheel or pull forward and start over - that is his job.  And remember: "the other way" is not a direction!
Of course, it pays to first have both of you "walk the site" and agree where the trailer should go.   And speaking of highway cones, a small cone or even a leveling block, placed on the ground at each corner where you'd like the trailer to be, can really help in backing up.  Otherwise, it is hard to see, from the cab of the truck, where the trailer is, in relation to its desired position.

So once you have all that, how do you back up a trailer?  Simple, put the truck in reverse.

Oh, steering - you wanted to know about that!  Simple, too.  Put your hand at the bottom of the wheel, and when you want the ass-end of the trailer to go right, push the wheel to the right.  You want the ass-end of the trailer to go left, push the wheel to the left.

That's it.  You need not push further, and in most cases, don't want to.  A trailer diverts quickly from centerline when reversing, so any dramatic inputs cause the trailer to go off-center very, very fast.   And that is why you need to go slowly.  If you reverse quickly, and make a wrong input, you can jack-knife a trailer in short order.

But what about those cowboys who reverse at full throttle and squeeze the trailer into a space in one shot?   Well, some of them are professional truckers.  Others, well, look at the dents on their trailer sometime before you think they are in the towing rodeo - odds are, they are getting lucky half the time, and simply don't care the other half.

Besides, who wants to be that guy?  Take your time, go forward and straighten out if you over-steer - several times, if necessary.   It isn't a contest, you are not be judged or awarded points (unless, of course, you and your spouse engaged in a knock-down drag-out that the whole campground can hear).

Like the parallel parking part of the NYS driver's test (back in the day, anyway) you might lose a point for backing-and-filling a dozen times, but so long as the end result is correct, you still pass.  So don't sweat it.   But make sure you don't have a "helpful" fellow camper screaming at you to "turn your wheel the other way!" or your spouse offering driving instructions, rather than backing instructions.

Once  you get those other folks out of the way, the rest is easy.

UPDATE:  It also pays to chock, then block!

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Words Matter - How the Media Snookers Us

You can sway opinion in a "news" article by your choice of words.

Reading the news these days is a risky business.   When you look at an article, you have to first look to see who the publisher is, and figure out their associated bias.    If it is from The Federalist, the Washington Examiner (a paper that does not really exist) or Fox News, you can be sure you are going to get some right-wing news.   On the other hand, if it from the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Times, or the Washington Post (where democracy still cries in the darkness) you can be sure of a left-wing slant.   All news today is propaganda for one side or another of our partisan civil war - which may brew into a real civil war before we know it, aided an abetted by these partisan hacks that pass for journalists today.

In a recent article in the Washington Post, the headline reads, "He stole $50 and got life without parole" which sounds rather harsh, even for Alabama.   The headline alone contains a whopper of a lie, which is repeated early on in the story:
At 22, Alvin Kennard was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.His crime? Stealing $50.75 from a bakery in 1983.
Um, not exactly.   The theft armed robbery from the bakery was the latest in a string of criminal acts he committed over time as an "habitual offender."   Again, the Post glazes over this:
The unusually harsh punishment was the result of Alabama’s Habitual Felony Offender Act, also known as the “three strikes law,” which was originally intended to crack down on repeat offenders when it was enacted in the 1970s.
You may not have been alive in the 1970's or 1960's, but crime rates were through the roof back then.  People were robbed, beaten, stabbed, murdered, and raped.  Your stuff was stolen regularly, even if you locked it up or chained it to a tree.   Criminals had rights, and citizens had none, and people got sick and tired of folks who decided that society didn't apply to them.

As I noted before, the police can only police law-abiding citizens.  The guy with four DUIs who rams into a busload of nuns, while driving the wrong way on the Interstate at 100 mph (something that happens with regularity in our country) is finally sent to jail.   The treatment program, probation, and two-year sentence - as well as taking away his license, did no good.   He basically lives as an outlaw, outside of the law, and can only be put away for good when he does something horrendous.

Meanwhile, the secretary at the company Christmas party has one glass-too-many of eggnog and blows 0.081 on the breathalyzer and her life is ruined.   She loses her job, her license, and life's savings to legal fees and court fines.   They can punish her, as she has a fixed address, pays taxes, and lives within the system.

Outlaws, on the other hand, don't give a shit about what laws you enact or what the punishments are. They will shoot a cop if they think it means they might not get caught for stealing a car.   And usually there is a pattern with such outlaws.  They start with petty crimes - breaking and entering, petty theft and so on.  But then they graduate to armed robbery, perhaps rape, and then eventually murder.

And bear in mind, that for every one crime they are caught and convicted of, there are perhaps two or three they are arrested for but not convicted, or at least suspected of committing.  And for every one of those, there are probably a half-dozen they are never caught for.   You wonder who broke into your house and stole your stereo?   It was probably some habitual offender.

So the idea was, back then, to put people away for long periods of time - perhaps forever - if they didn't want to play by society's rules.   You commit three felonies, and well, you're out of the game.  They put you away so the rest of us are safer and moreover, you age out of your crime-committing years.

And it is a law that worked, too.  Crime rates have fallen precipitously since these sort of laws were enacted - and incarceration rates have skyrocketed.   Of course, some on the left say there is no connection - we are confusing causation and correlation.   They argue that as the population ages, crime rates go down.   And maybe there is a nugget of truth to this.  It may also be that we are a wealthier nation than before - and have more social programs and welfare programs than in the past.   There may be a number of factors.   But frankly, I think putting outlaws in prison tends to reduce the number of outlaws in circulation.   Call me crazy, but I think there is a connection there.
But Kennard wasn’t exactly a hardened career criminal when he was sentenced to life behind bars: His prior history consisted of being charged in connection with a break-in at an unoccupied gas station when he was 18, which landed him on probation for three years, reported. 
Several years after that incident, Kennard and another man walked into the Highlands Bakery in Bessemer, Ala., wielding a knife, and emptied the cash register, according to court records. In 1984, Kennard was convicted of first-degree robbery. Because he had pleaded guilty to three felony counts in the gas station break-in, the penalty was a mandatory life sentence.
Read that last part again - wielding a knife, and emptied the cash register - as if they used the knife to jimmy open the cash register and not to assault and threaten the cashier (who is nowhere mentioned in the story).  With armed robbery, it doesn't matter if you stole $50 or $5000 - it is still a felony, and the seriousness of the crime isn't determined by the amount stolen, but the violent means used to do so.  Kennard was well on his way to the last, sad part of a habitual offender's saga - the robbery that goes wrong and a dead and bleeding cashier on the floor.    Armed robbery is a serious crime, it is not merely "emptying the cash register!"

Ask any clerk who has had to look at the business-end of a gun or had a knife held to their throat, while some masked man screams obscenities and threatened to "waste" them unless they hand over the money.  Many are scarred for life - most suffer from some sort of PTSD later in life.   It isn't fun being assaulted, and citizens have a right to carry on their ordinary business without fear for their lives and safety.

Oh, but Kennard is the victim here, of mean old Alabama!   He did nothing wrong, or nothing seriously wrong.  He just stole stuff, "broke into a gas station" (which glosses over what really happened there - you don't get three felony convictions for "breaking into a gas station" - he stole some serious shit!)

And these are only the crimes we know about.   Is it possible someone like him didn't steal other things?   Or was involved in other armed robberies but never caught or identified?   Is it possible that by putting him in jail for so long may have done him a favor by interrupting his crime spree and saving him from a lethal injection down the road when his life of crime ended up with someone dead?   Perhaps.

Now granted, maybe life without parole is a bit harsh.   Maybe 20 years is sufficient to turn him from an angry young man who rejects society into a middle-aged one who has run out of energy to support his rage.   And of course, here the system worked and he is out of jail after 32 years.  Was that too harsh a sentence for his life of crime?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I'm just glad I'm not the store clerk who had  to face down a violent and crazy young man with a knife.

The point is, regardless of whether you believe his sentence was fair or not, or whether his release was fair or not, the Washington Post is playing a word game here, playing down his crimes as trivial offenses - things that happened almost by accident, that could happen to anyone, that were youthful transgressions.  And it starts with the headline, which states a flat-out lie that this man was imprisoned for stealing $50.  This simply is not true - he was imprisoned for a rash of crimes, the bakery robbery was only the last in a series.   Oh, and it was armed robbery, too.  It wasn't like he was stealing loaves of bread after-hours to feed his hungry children.

The same Washington Post goes after President Trump for his constant lying - and they should, too.  But you can't fight lies with more lies, and if the Left continues with this strategy, it will simply polarize our country even further.   You can't be the "good guy" by wallowing with the pigs.  Besides, the pigs like it, when you stoop to their level.

There is a hue and cry on the left to abolish all sorts of criminal justice acts passed in the 1970's and even during the Clinton years.  The press publishes articles acting amazed that felony murder laws exist (when they date back centuries, at least).   "Little Joey is convicted of murder, even though he didn't pull the trigger!" they whine, not bothering to mention that Little Joey is a gang-banger and they shot a guard during an armored car robbery and one of his cohorts was killed in the melee.

Pardon everyone! Let felons vote - from jail!  Abolish parole!  Abolish ICE!   Hamstring the Police!  That is the platform of the "new" Democratic party.  As Ronald Reagan once said, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party, the party left me!"  And I am beginning to understand how he felt.  The problem is, there is no alternative - no "middle-of-the-road" party to join.  And no, I am not ready now or ever to wear a MAGA hat and attend one of Trump's little Nazi rallies.

Democracy dies in the darkness?   Maybe so.  But in any battle, the first casualty is the truth, and the WashPo is doing a good job of annihilating that.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Land of Gingers! - And BCB's

Mark has found his people - too late!

British Columbia and Washington State seem to have something in common: Gingers.   The term "ginger" of course, was made famous by an episode of South Park where Cartman starts a crusade against this minority group, only to later end up leading it.  Of course, as many point, out, the term "Ginger" is an anagram for a racial slur.

Mark was born a ginger - full of freckles and curly reddish hair.   Few people are redheads.  My older brother was one, the victim of some recessive Irish gene, perhaps.   But in the Pacific Northwest, gingers abound - in fact, they seem to be in the majority.

And skinny.  As as "regular American" I enjoy having too much good food to eat and too much alcohol to drink.  Most Americans do, and as a result, at least have something of a "beer belly" by age 30.  But in BC, there is something in the water here - or maybe people exercise more - or maybe they all came from the same genetic stock.   Most are lanky, tall and skinny, with incredibly thin legs that look like they cannot support themselves, and skinny arms.   No Scottish burly calves here!

Of course, the fate of gingers is tragic.  Mark long ago lost most of his curly red hair.   I still love him, perhaps moreso for it.   What is left has gone bone white.   Such is the fate of the ginger.  We see the young ginger man with a full (but already thinning) head of red hair and a pirate's beard, and we nod to ourselves.   He'll be bald before age 40.  Or white, or both.

But the other oddity of the Pacific Northwest is Bees.   They're freaking everywhere - and we are told that everywhere else, they are going extinct.   These are not aggressive bees, not "killer bees" by any means.  They just flit around and annoy you, and you bat them away and they leave.  And they are attracted to the oddest things, like hamburger.  Meat bees - only in BC!

But our stay here will end tomorrow, as we get on the clanky old "Black Ball" Coho ferry, which has been plying these waters for decades - a year longer than I have been alive, in fact.  Off to Washington to explore the Olympic Peninsula for a few days, until the tourist traffic from labor day dies down.  Then back to Georgia in time for Hurricane season.

We'll miss Vancouver Island, and chances are, we won't be back for a few years at least.   But God willing, we'll be back!

Monday, August 26, 2019

How's That Trailer Working Out?

People write asking how the new trailer is working out.   OK, with some hiccups.

The new trailer is pretty good, but there are some things I am a little disappointed in:

1.  Anti-Gravity:  The trailer was advertised as having anti-gravity properties, but the most I have been able to levitate it is about 6-8" which is enough to slide a leveling block under a tire, but that's about it.   I was hoping for at least a few feet, here.

2.  Time-Travel:  I paid extra for the time-travel capability, but what they don't tell you is that it can only go back about 28 minutes in time.   What's the point of that?  They stop selling lottery tickets an hour before the drawing, so that's no help.  And no, you can't just keep hitting the "reverse" button over and over again to go back in time further.  I tried.

3.  Warp Drive:   They claim this trailer has warp capabilities, but the fastest I could get it to go was warp 1.1 - hardly faster than a shuttlecraft! (which it sort of looks like).  What's the point of that?  At that speed, it would still take me four years to reach Alpha Centuri - and let's face it, there's nothing there worth seeing, anyway.   Sure, you can use it within the solar system, but its considered bad form to engage warp near a gravity well.

I guess I can't complain - technically these features work, but the way they were advertised, I expected much more.

* * 

Of course, I am mocking what some people write on review sites - criticizing every last detail of a product - usually as a result of buyer's remorse.  And yes, we all do this - even me.  I threw a tantrum over the crappy shocks in the F150 and the flaky right side camera.   And part of this was perhaps being nervous after spending more money than I had ever before on a motor vehicle and then wondering whether I made a very, very expensive mistake.   But new Bilsteins seemed to solve the shock problem (which is apparently common - and I may even go further to Bilstein HD's) and the camera mysteriously started working again, and the leaky tire seemed to seal itself somehow.   With the passage of time, you get comfortable with a vehicle and seem less alarmed.

With the trailer, well, this is RV number five for us, and we know what to expect.   These things are hand-assembled, one at a time, and the components are all pretty much the same - Dometic, a division of Electrolux, makes almost all of the hardware - the air conditioner, the refrigerator, the power awning, and whatnot.   After you've owned a few RVs, you've owned a lot of Dometic products (or A&E, Carefree, Suburban, Coleman, Magic Chef, or whatever).   They are all about the same, and have their own separate warranties.

The structure of the thing is key to us.  After five RVs, with three of them having typical "stick built" quality issues - rubber roofs leaking and inflating, fiberglass sides delaminating, and so on and so forth - we know what is important and what isn't.  Fancy fru-fru like power slide-outs are nice, but basic structural integrity is much nicer.  When we bought the Casita, we never expected to own it for fifteen years.  But we sold it for nearly what we paid for it, and it's still out there, trucking around, as we speak.  Fiberglass RVs rock.

Sure, as with anything put together by human beings, there are some screws loose (besides the owners) here and there.  The compartment latch screws came loose, and one compartment door wouldn't open (Mark had to crawl under the bed to release it).   But then again, the same kind of compartment latch screw came loose on the Casita - nearly 20 years to the day, after it was built.  That's not a quality issue, it's a "shit happens" issue.   There are literally thousands of fasteners in an RV, so you have to expect one or two to come loose over time.

Oddly enough, for many people, an Escape is not their ultimate camper, but their very first experience in the RV world.   And fiberglass campers, like any niche product, attract a lot of oddball people, myself included.   Just the way they are marketed insures that they are not in the mainstream.   They are not "sold" to people by slick salesmen in RV stores, you have to really want one, and you have to drive 3,500 miles to Chilliwack, BC to pick it up, often paying cash.   This acts as a great filtering agent.   But it filters both ways.   We are all a little whack-a-doodle as a result.

For example, in the Escape forum, people ask the weirdest questions.  "Should I get Air Conditioning for the camper?  I live in BC and it never gets hot here," they ask   Maybe true, but then again, we were just there and needed the A/C the first day we had the camper.   It does get hot there, despite what people say.

But moreover, a "travel trailer" is designed to, well, travel, and even if you live in cold climes, the idea that you will never, ever, decide to go elsewhere where it may be warmer, is kind of shortsighted.   Arizona is calling, as is Yellowstone.   Both can get kinda warm.   And if you decide to sell the trailer, well, it will be awkward without A/C on it.  And besides, it's not that expensive.

We ordered nearly every option on the camper except a microwave and a power inverter.   Both can be added by a future owner for about the same cost as factory installation (the power inverter, wired into all the sockets, was well over $1000).   The idea that you can charge a bank of batteries and then run your 110V Crock Pot out in the boondocks is flawed.   You'll end up draining the batteries pretty quickly, and there are propane or 12V alternatives to almost anything you want to do with an inverter.  And besides, you may end up burning down the camper.

It puzzles me that some folks will install a bank of batteries and two solar panels, but decide that compartment doors or air conditioning are an obscene luxury.  (The rear compartment doors are an option, but without them, it is nearly impossible to access those compartments, other than to lift up the dinette seats.  Not practical for real storage!)   But to each his own.   One option that is not on the option sheet that is well worthwhile getting is the A/C with the heat strip.  The propane furnace works great, mind you, but it burns up propane (a lot of it) when you use it.  Most campgrounds don't meter electricity, so there is no point in running a propane furnace (which you pay for) when you can run the electric heat strip on your A/C unit for free heat.   And by the way, all three HVAC sources (A/C, furnace, heat strip) run off the same easy-to-use thermostat.

A full stove is another option worth getting.  Some folks say they prefer to have the cabinet underneath a cooktop for "storage" but frankly, we seem to have more storage than we need (particularly coming from the Casita).  We did opt for the extra cabinet next to the bed (replacing a television shelf that we don't use, as we don't watch television - and besides, televisions can mount on a wall).   Having a full oven gives you more options for food preparation, but then again, I suspect that more than half of all RVers go to restaurants all the time or merely thaw out frozen entrees in the microwave.

The cabinet for the microwave is prewired with an outlet, so it is easy to install one - go to Walmart, buy a $50 microwave, and throw it in the cabinet.   In terms of storage, having the oven and scotching the microwave works best for us.   But then again, we cook (I know, weirdos!) and don't nuke.  But it is easy to change this, otherwise, we would have ordered the microwave simply for the resale market.

We did get the solar panel and dual six-volt batteries - not so we can generate 110V with an inverter and run a television all day in the wilderness, but so we can "dry camp" without issues.   We are in Bamberton Provincial Park right now, and there are no hookups.   But other than the lack of A/C, you wouldn't know the difference - everything else works, either on 12V or on propane.   And it is pretty seamless, too.   The refrigerator automatically seeks out the best power source, while the hot water heater is a matter of throwing a switch.

Such automation comes with a price, though.  Unlike our all-manual Casita, which required a match to light the hot water heater, and a manual knob to switch over the refrigerator, this new trailer (like anything else 20 years newer than our Casita) has electronic controls.   And we've been down this road before with our Class-C motorhome.   They work great (most of the time, until a circuit board fails) but if you lose 12V power, well, everything goes dead.

While these appliances run on propane, they need 12V to run the controls.   You run out of battery power and everything goes off.   So while a single 12V battery to run the lights and water pump was fine in the Casita, I wanted something more for this rig.   With the solar panel and dual 6V golf car batteries, we can be sure that we can live "off the grid" for days on end without difficulty.

(And no, you don't need a generator. The only reason you might ever need a generator is if you were leaving your pet in the camper and it's hot out and you need to run the air conditioning. People bring a generator with them so they can run their microwave to make their breakfast. It makes no sense at all. And often these generators are loud and noisy and inconvenience other people. Just say no to generators.)

But if we went with an inverter, it would have meant only minutes of 110V power available to us - maybe a few hours, tops (depending on load).   And once you've sucked that battery bank dry with your TeeVee, then all your other appliances shut down as well - the water pump, the refrigerator, the hot water heater, the lights, the awning, and so on.    People don't get this, but then again, I'm an Electrical Engineer.  Just leave the home appliances at home, and learn to live with less or live with something different, in the RV.   Cook on the stove, not in your Insti-Pot.   Watch a video on a laptop, a pad device, or a 12V television - or not watch videos at all.   You'd be surprised how easy it is to do.

And for God's sake, don't try to run the air conditioner from the house batteries through an inverter. People who try to do this just don't understand basic Engineering or Physics.   Folks who try to "take it all with them" as many in the motorhome set do, end up being frustrated as all this technological fru-fru simply doesn't work or runs into the inexorable laws of physics.   Some of these motorhomes have banks of batteries, which sounds like fun and all, until about five years into the game when you have to replace them all.

These are the same folks who complain the loudest when all these toys don't work as advertised.  "Warp drive?  You call this warp drive?   It's so slow, I might as well be walking!"

So to answer the question set forth in the title, "just fine, thank you!" because we have realistic expectations of what an RV is all about, and we tried not to go after trouble-prone esoteric options like power inverters (which the staff at the place sort of even discouraged, which they also do by the prices quoted).

Overall, I would say the assembly quality is very good - far superior to what we've seen come out of Elkhart, Indiana.  Like anything else, it is built to a design price - in this case, about $30,000 USD, (which is a lot more than the stick-built crap from Elkhart).  The interior is nice, but not all the wood is real, of course - if it were, it would cost thousands more.   The main thing is, it is comfortable and just the right size for us - larger than the cramped Casita, but not so large as to be difficult to tow, maneuver, and park.

In short, it is exactly what we expected, which is the definition of quality.   It  should give us many good years of service - more years than we have left in life, or left in RVing - and when we sell it, like the Casita, it will return a substantial portion of its purchase price.

You really can't beat that!

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Myth of LBGTQ

Lumping disparate people under one heading is never a good idea.

Identity politics is all the rage these days.  Political analysts want to slice and dice us up into different groups based on geography, race, gender, or sexual orientation - among other things.  However, these classifications of people are often wildly inaccurate.

Take for example, my Cuban friend.  He'd be the first to tell you that he does not consider himself Latino or Hispanic.   Cuba, as he points out is a Caribbean Island, not part of Latin America or South America.  Moreover, he claims it all his ancestors are one hundred percent of Spanish ancestry.  And this is a sticky point when dealing with the Hispanic Community.  Everyone will tell you that all of their ancestors are 100% Spanish.  Most are 100% lying.

I stepped in the dogshit with a friend of mine from Costa Rica when I told him he had a very noble face that looked like that of a Mayan God.   I thought I was giving him a compliment, but basically I was calling him the N-word in his culture.  In Latin America and South America, how white your skin is determines your social status.  That's the reason why you see a lot of these guys working in lawn care business wearing elaborate scarves and hats - they are trying to preserve their fair skin.

Sadly this desire for whiteness is planet-wide. Why do you think those Chinese ladies wear those hats with enormous brims and also wear facial scarves?  Racism is not confined to America and Americans, but rather is a global phenomenon.  We didn't invent this shit.

Taking racism aside, people in various Latino and Hispanic communities don't like to be lumped together. In Latin America alone, there is much competition and prejudice between people of different countries.  I recounted before how we took our cleaning lady out to dinner at an El Salvadorian restaurant.  She acted very strange and reserved, even though the food was very similar to what she had in her hometown.  When I asked her what was making her uncomfortable, she said, "All these people there El Salvadorians!"   In the hierarchy of Latin America, she felt that Mexicans were the top of the heap, and it went downhill from there as you went South.

Compounding this are the differences in politics among these various groups of people.  Democrats assume that anybody who's Hispanic is a "person of color" and therefore must vote liberal.  But again as I just noted, many Latinos don't consider them people selves "people of color," but rather as people of a Spanish background.  The Democrats are reading this all wrong.

And in terms of racism, there is a very serious animosity between Hispanics and blacks.  We went to try to find an apartment for our cleaning lady and we showed her a beautiful apartment in a nice house close to the Metro.  However when we met the landlord, a nice black lady, she immediately stiffened and said we had to leave.  I asked her what was wrong and she said, "Senor Robert, personas negros no es bueno!"  She was really racist, which is ironic because many people would be racist against her, based on her background.  Getting blacks and Hispanics to vote together as a bloc is a fantasy.

On the political side, people we might lump together as "Hispanic" or "Latino" are all over the map, from far-left liberal, to right-wing conservative.  Many are devout Catholics and thus have very right-wing religious views, particular about things like gay marriage and abortion.  Democrats assume that all Latinos are liberal and therefore are embracing of other minority groups such as the gays, when that may be far from the truth.

Among Cubans, the same is true. The old hardliners who came over from Havana after the revolution tend to vote Republican and are very conservative.  Their political views are shaped by that revolution, and their number one demand as they get all of their stuff back that Castro took away from them.  Of course, this is never going to happen, but Republicans pander to this anyway.

Younger Cubans are maybe less interested in going back to the home country and reclaiming lost property.  They have a life here in America in are more interested in opening up relations with their parents' homeland. They may tend to vote Democratic but again, it's never good to make generalizations this way.

The Democrats are making great hay out of wooing the LBGTQ vote, which is an anagram of various sexual minorities which are entirely unrelated. Again, assuming that a group of people all vote or think the same way is a really bad idea.

When I was president of the Gay and Lesbian Student Association, I learned this firsthand.  Back then we didn't have as many letters in the alphabet and it was basically limited to gays and lesbians. But in reality it really was the Gay Student Association, as the lesbians very rarely, if ever, showed up at our weekly parties.  They were fabulous parties, too.

And the reason was, we had very little in common.  We didn't hang out together or go to the same bars or clubs or do the same things or have the same interests.   And there was always this tension between the genders - some of the lesbians had many gender-based grievances, and saw us as the opposition.  One of the early demands they made was that the name of the organization be changed from the Gay Student Association to the Gay and Lesbian Student Association. Then, that was considered inadequate because the gays were mentioned first, so we changed the name to the Lesbian and Gay Student Association.  This was in the early days of the absurdness of political correctness.

Of course, it didn't matter at all.  The lesbians still refused to show up at our weekly gatherings, even though we offered free beer.  They didn't feel comfortable being around a bunch of chatty gay men, and I guess the feeling was mutual to some extent.  More than one gay person expressed to me an irrational hostility they had toward lesbians.  And yet Democrats assume that we are all chums - and all nice people.

That was 35 years ago. Since then, more letters have been added to the alphabet and more and more sexual minorities have been recognized, created, or invented.  And we are told we are all supposed to think the same, even though our needs and interests are vastly different.  And quite frankly, I don't understand what some of these sexual minorities are.  What is the difference, for example, between gay and queer?  I'm not sure, nor do I really care.  It seems to me a lot of this is people slapping labels on themselves in order to be unique and special.

The latest letters added to the alphabet are for transgender people, this seems to be the burning issue du jour although this is even a smaller minority of people than gays in the population. I don't have anything against transgender people, that's their own thing.  But it's not my thing, and it really doesn't interest me at all whatsoever.  Not only that, it can be a little creepy at times.  But of course, you can't say that.  Whoops, I just did.

If you meet someone who is transgender, transsexual, or a crossdresser who's very good at it, you would never know you were dealing with someone of the opposite gender.  Because they actually look like that gender and thus can easily pass for it. But when you see a guy wearing a dress and a beard, it's kind of jarring.  And it's okay to say that, despite what other people tell you. 

Just because transgender people or gay people make you uncomfortable doesn't mean you hate them or anything or want to cause them harm or whatever.  And that doesn't mean you're homophobic or transphobic or whatever-phobic you want to put on that label.  There are lots of ways that people can make you uncomfortable, just from odd behavior, to the way they look or dress.

People can creep you out any number of ways - too many facial tattoos or piercings, for example.   It doesn't mean you hate them, only that it makes you uncomfortable.   You get to know them, and they are nice people and after a while, you don't notice all the creepy tats and piercings.  But that doesn't mean you are bad for being creeped out by it, initially.  (Any why people disfigure themselves like this is beyond me.  I can only imagine what it all will look like when they are 70 years old - ugh!).

When I see some of these teenagers with weird tattoos and piercings wearing bizarre clothing, yes it makes me feel uncomfortable.  That doesn't make me teen-phobic or tattoo-phobic or whatever, just that I'm not used to seeing that sort of thing.  When I see people muttering things under their breath or screaming obscenities on the street it doesn't mean I hate crazy homeless people, only that that sort of behavior makes me very uncomfortable.

And this is a normal reaction, bred into us by the centuries.  Blame Darwin.   As tribal people, we learned eons ago to distrust people who don't look or act like us, speak the same language, dialect, or with the same accent, dress like us, or whatever.   Because in those long-ago days, people from other tribes were often our enemies, and they of course made you nervous and anxious.   Breaking free from that primal conditioning takes effort.  We are all inclined to be racist or phobic, it takes conscious effort not to be.   And that is the reality of it.   Racists are just lazy.

But getting back to LGBTQ, not everything that everyone is doing is something I agree with or support.   As I noted in an earlier posting, my goal is to be left the hell alone, not to force people to "accept" me or ask for government sanction or largess.  But it seems others want more.  They want people to be forced to attend their gay weddings, either as a photographer, caterer, or cake baker.  They want to force religious groups to accept their orientation and even celebrate it in church.   I think this is taking a good thing too far.

Lately, a lot of transgender people been making the news but for all the wrong reasons. The person who hacked into the Capital One database and stole millions of social security numbers and bank account numbers is apparently a transgender person who has a lot of mental health issues. The so-called "transgender hero," former private Bradley Manning is pushing the transgender thing as somehow being related to stealing millions of government documents and posting them on the internet. I'm not sure how the two are related, only that Ms. Manning is bringing disgrace to the transgender movement by tying the two non-related issues together.

There are some who argue that these are not anomalies, that many transgender people are maladjusted. I don't know if this is true or just merely a slur.  Or it may be that growing up with a transgender identity tends to make one unstable due to the pressures of society.

But recent events have me wondering if I went to bed one night and woke up on another planet.  I guess I haven't been following the whole "transgender" thing too closely, but the upshot is that some people believe this is some sort of illness that needs to be corrected with surgery.  The penis is apparently some sort of tumor that needs to be removed - at government or insurance company expense - to preserve the health of the patient.

Wait.  What?

On National People's Radio Weekend Comrade is this story about a prisoner in jail in Idaho who has sued to have a sex change.  Only they don't call it a sex change anymore, or even "gender reassignment surgery" but "gender confirmation surgery" - the PC police have been hard at work here.   This is cosmetic surgery, people - something that is not necessary to keep you alive or healthy.  After all, for eons, people lived perfectly well without having their genitals mutilated.   Now that this type of surgery is available, it is now necessary? 

Sorry, I don't buy it.  This is cosmetic surgery - an elective procedure - and the government and insurance companies should not be forced to pay for it.   But if you can find a friendly doctor that claims it is "medically necessary" for your health (how?) then you may be able to strong-arm the insurance company for this very, very expensive procedure.  UPDATE:  Some are claiming that "gender affirmation surgery" is medically necessary to save the life of the patient, as the patient would kill themselves, otherwise.  This seems quite odd to me and a weird definition of "life-saving" surgery.

Funny thing, though.  When I need a procedure, the doctors do everything in their power to keep me out of the operating room.   Insurance won't cover my detached bicep or my convoluted lower intestine or my compressed disc in my neck.  What's more, doctors correctly note that surgery is risky, and it should be a last resort - after all other remedies have been tried - rather than a first option.   So, I've wisely stayed away from hospitals.   I think most people should, if they can all avoid it.   It would bring down the cost of health care.

All that being said, this transgender fellow should be careful what he wishes for.  Because if they go through with this, he will be reassigned to a woman's prison, in which case, he will have to transition again to Lesbian.

But again, this person is not really a good poster-child for the transgender movement.   He/she is in prison for child molesting.   Um.  Yea.   Again, what planet did I wake up on that child molesters get six-figure elective surgery in prison?   This is the sort of shit that will re-elect Trump in 2020.  We need to stop being wacky here, folks!

But I think the Supreme Court will overturn this decision.   At least I hope so.  People are decrying Idaho as being "unfair" by appealing the 9th circuit's decision in the matter - but filing an appeal is a matter of right (whether the Supreme Court takes it up is another matter).  Moreover, as we learned in law school, any decisions coming out of California are not really binding anywhere else - the 9th Circuit is of course based in San Francisco, where this sort of reassignment or confirmation nonsense is thought to make more sense.

I mentioned this to Mark, and his only comment was "I thought confirmation was something Catholics did!"  Touche.

But I guess what irks me more than idiotic things like this NPR article, is that people assume that I support that sort of nonsense, because, you know, identity politics.    You can't have opinions of your own, you have to buy into the whole enchilada (is that racist?  I don't even know anymore) - lock, stock, and barrel.

And a lot of people do just this - picking their political identity off-the-shelf and signing up for a plethora of political views based on identity politics.  Once you pick your political identity, you are not allowed to deviate from the party line one iota, regardless of whether you are a MAGA-hat wearing Trump supporter, or a Rachel-Maddow-watching "Democratic Socialist".  You spend all your time talking to like-minded people and viewing everyone else as "the enemy." 

Moderate Republicans and Moderate Democrats are not welcome anywhere, it seems - we have no "identity group" to define us by race, class, religion, or whatever.  And maybe that is the problem - the "silent majority" as Nixon called it, is so disparate that they are not easy to identify and market to, so the political consultants instead focus on readily identifiable groups that will be receptive to a single message.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Shitty Directions

If you're going to run a business where people visit your location, publish your actual physical address, not the PO Box where you receive mail.

One of the mind-bogglingly frustrating things about travelling by RV is how many businesses and campgrounds simply refuse to give out their physical address for some reason.  It appears like they're hiding from the law or something.  They want people to come visit their business, but rather than give out their physical address, they either give out their mailing address - or a set of half-ass instructions.

We've even seen this with state parks.  We are visiting a state park - in a state that will not be named -  and the address given on their website was that of the park ranger's personal home in town.  This wouldn't be such a bad thing other than he lived on a dead-end dirt road and we had to back up the camper a quarter mile once we realized we were at his house, and not at the park.  I should have camped on his front lawn.

Seems like a simple thing, publishing your address, but for some reason people seem resistant to doing it.  Many folks argue that GPS systems are inaccurate, and that giving out the physical address will cause people to go to the wrong location.  Maybe in the early days of GPS this was true - we've seen several instances in the past where GPS systems used to misdirect people to the wrong location.  That was a decade ago - or more.  Most of the people who run these parks don't travel very much and they're not familiar with more modern GPS systems which are much more accurate and have far better databases than in the past.

So, when you call them for their real address, after you're sitting idling in front of their personal residence for half an hour, they still won't give you the address.  "Oh you don't want that, the GPS will steer you the wrong way.  Let me give you directions!" they say.  Then, they proceeded to give you this long-winded recitation of turns and distances which are from the interstate and not really very helpful from where you are.

Sometimes these passive-aggressive campground owners tip their hand.  We recently went to one campground and I noticed that the address they provided on their emails and website was for box number.  I correctly presumed that rather than give out their physical address they were giving out their mailing address at some for-profit postal center.  And indeed, once I punched this information to the GPS, I could see that the address shown was nowhere near the waterfront campground, but rather at a postal center far inland.

Worse yet, their half-assed directions on their website basically told you how to get to the town, but didn't tell you where within the town the campground was located.  And once you're in the town, there was only a tiny sign indicating where the campground was.  Indeed, once we got to the campground it was hard to tell if it was the actual campground, as there were eight signs on the front advertising the marina, the bar, a resort, and one sign actually in Chinese.  There was only one tiny sign indicating the campground.

A small thing, perhaps.  But consider how it is for someone towing a trailer, who ends up driving down a dead-end street, with no way to turn around.   Maybe a campground might consider this.

And we were not the only ones to be so confused.  We saw this couple in a huge fifth wheel idling in the driveway, wondering the same thing -  if this indeed was the right place.  I assured them that it was.  No doubt they got frustrated driving down the wrong street and ending up at the post office based on address provided on the campground owners' website and e-mail reservation confirmation.

There are some instances where directions are helpful.  For example, we visit a campground in West Virginia and often the roads are washed out or broken down.  There's one section with a very sharp hairpin turn which can be difficult to maneuver with an RV.   The campground owner is usually very helpful in suggesting a direction to approach their Campground from, but they don't try to bore us with a recitation of turns and streets and distances.  Yes, even in West-by-God Virginia, GPS works.

Perhaps the logic and reasoning behind this dates back to earlier times.  In the olden days, if you wanted to make a reservation, you had to send a postcard or letter, the latter often accompanied by a deposit check. Thus, the campground owners wanted their mailing address featured prominently and not the physical address.

But of course, those days are long gone.   If you try to make reservation by mail, chances are the place will be fully booked of by the time your letter arrives.  Most people call or use online reservation systems.  We are in the 21st century.

What perhaps is most annoying, is that when you do call these places to get their address - because their address is nowhere to be found on the internet, on their website, or any other location - they act all very busy - as if you've inconvenienced then by asking where they are located, which is kind of important, as you are trying to get there.

Campground offices can get very busy, but you can cut down on the number of spurious phone calls simply by publishing your address rather than waiting for people to call and say mother may I?

It seems like a simple thing, but I cannot for the life of me understand why people are so reluctant to hand out their physical address when they're running a business where people visit their physical location.  You can't expect customers if you don't tell them where you are.

There are, of course, some businesses which do just the opposite, providing all sorts of information, including latitude and longitude coordinates to enter in your GPS system. These were particularly handy as  older GPS systems often had physical addresses which could be off by a half mile or more.

And of course, this phobia of handing out your address probably stems from some disgruntled camper, years ago, who complained that his GPS system took him to the wrong location and somehow this was the fault of the campground owner.  Again, maybe this was an issue back in the day, but today, GPS systems are far more accurate as the database has improved, and the accuracy of the system has improved as well.  We shouldn't let problems from 10 years ago affect our behavior today.

I think part of it also is a bit of passive-aggressiveness.  People like to think they're special snowflakes and somehow they fell off the GPS map, because they are so special and live "out in the country" where sat-e-lites cannot scan them.   I have had more than one campground owner tell me, "Oh, you can't use GPS to find us!" but when I enter their address, it literally directs me to their front door.   They need to update the database in their head.

I also think it's a form of information hoarding. People like to feel special by withholding information.  Thus this forces you to call them, begging for information, and they can give you their long-winded recitation of how to get there by taking a left at the barn that used to be painted green and then driving for three furlongs past the house with a cow in front of it and then turning right.  Or, as they used to like to say in Maine, "you can't get there from here!"

Just give us your damn address!

UPDATE:  A corollary to this problem are commercial businesses which refuse to put their street number on the front of their storefront.  Not only does this help people find their business or other nearby businesses, it's useful for the local fire department and other emergency services. It should be a law that commercial businesses should prominently display their street address on the front of their building.  It's not that difficult.  After all, we as homeowners have to do it.

Also, the examples of "turn left at the barn that used to be painted green" or "turn right at the house with the cow in the yard" are not made-up, but actual shitty directions I have been given.   How am I supposed to know what color the barn used to be?   And that cow, she decided to take a walk that day.