30 July 2008

CAN'T HELP MYSELF

there's a gathering of hell's angels in missoula right now. no big deal, mostly aging baby boomers out to recapture their younger days. marlon brando or lee marvin in "the wild one", they're not.

sadly, the contingent from north dakota didn't make it. it seems that when they got into montana, they didn't get past the first pull-out with a sign reading "chain removal area".

(this will only make sense to you if you've driven mountain highways in winter, when snow chains are required....and if you realize that most true hogs are belt or chain-driven. myself, i'll always opt for a shaft drive, very reliable and maintenance-free.)

a long way to go to explain a short joke.

26 July 2008

CHUBASCO

in southern arizona, as in southeast asia, each year seasonally rains appear, driven by planetary weather engines like heat, humidity and prevailing winds. one feature of the arizona desert monsoon is the chubasco, a violent squall often accompanied by thunder and lightning.

this morning, during my daily check of the university of arizona webcam, i discovered that the site features a vault of time-lapse videos, http://www.cs.arizona.edu/camera/vault/ , including one on 26 june showing the arrival of the season's first chubasco. in addition, the 5 september 2007 video is a most impressive recording of a violent desert thunderstorm's arrival over the santa catalina mountains. check'm out !

25 July 2008

AND YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS

today is 25 july. which means .... only five months until christmas. it's not too early to start planning your gift for me.

i'm pursuing a new project. or more accurately, reviving an old one. i've owned and ridden motorcycles off and on for nearly forty years. but it's been fifteen years since i sold my last bike -- after a serious traffic accident, my ex told me "the bike goes, or i go". i obliged, sadly. but since she's now been an ex for over four years, that particular barrier no longer exists.

my first bike was a classic 1963 Triumph Bonneville 650. if i were to hear one today, i could still identify that distinctive sound. a cold start meant tapping the "tickler" a few times, essentially priming the carburator with fuel, which was a quirk on these brit bikes. it was even colored british racing green. i bought it for $600 cash from a guy named alan in tucson, az. when he later mailed me the owner's manual (this was a lot of bike for a virgin rider), he enclosed a note which i still remember: "hope you enjoy the wheel. best friend stole my girl, army after my ass, what next." recall that in 1969 the vietnam war and the military draft were on every young man's mind. but i loved that bike. sold it to a lucky guy in houston, tx, where i was attending a computer school and couldn't keep up with the insurance payments on a car and a bike both.

the second bike was another Bonneville, this time a 1970, brand new, having returned to tucson. the 650cc displacement suited me well -- easy to maneuver on city streets, but heavy enough not to get blown around on the open road. goldenrod colored, with a black nike-like swoosh accent. easy rider.

the third bike was a burgandy '82 Honda Silver Wing, full dress with fairings, windshield, hard shell saddlebags and interchangeable trunk/passenger seat. man, i loved that bike. in sunny tucson, while attending the UA, it was my only vehicle for nearly two years, and with wet weather gear in the bags, it was all i needed. i loved being able to pull into any crowded parking lot and find a triangle of open space available to slip my bike into, right near the theater or store or whatever. '82 was the last year that Honda made the Silver Wing in 500cc, after that they went to 650.

i loved that bike best of all. i could be in the rottenest mood in the world, and all i had to do was saddle up and go for a relaxing ride on the swooping curving paved desert roads around tucson, returning the wave of a friendly saguaro, hearing and seeing and smelling all that clean desert ... and things would be right with the world.

alas, my neat little touring bike and i were in two near-fatal accidents. in both cases, once in tucson and once in philadelphia, a little old lady in a big ol' oldsmobile/cadillac, left the oncoming lane and turned left in front of me. both women claimed they didn't see me coming, even with clear dry conditions and my headlight on. whatever.

the first driver nearly missed, tagging my tail and sending me head-on into the opposite curb. i was out cold for a few minutes, and ended up with severely strained ankles, road rash on one knee, and in a wheelchair for a while. which gave me a real appreciation for what people with disabilities contend with in our society, but that's another story. my saddle bags were destroyed, but i got the rest of the bike repaired and running again.

the second driver had better timing. i think she was leading me a little, since she arrived at the collision spot before i did, hitting my front wheel. again i went cartwheeling through the air, landing on the sidewalk, out cold. the chin guard on my fullface helmet was cracked, which gives you an idea of the impact (and the effect if there'd been no helmet.) this time a fractured clavicle, separated left shoulder, slight concussion. the responding ambulance crew did their best to kill me too, trying to insert an IV while the vehicle was negotiating a curving bumpy road to the ER. but it was at this hospital that i discovered divine morphine, after eight excruciating hours on a wooden backboard. aftermath, a couple of months with my arm in a sling.

alas, poor Silver Wing, you were beyond repair this time. after keeping you around for consolation for a year, i sold you for parts. sigh.

but now i'm in montana, where a motorcycle license is life long. i'm studying the manual, will take the written test and then the MSF (motorcycle safety foundation) course in lieu of a performance test, and will have my license without having to actually buy a bike. that will come later. it'll just be nice, very nice, to have that motorcycle endorsement on my driver's license again, knowing i can go rent a BMW and spend a day out cruising with a friend. and someday, either a Honda Gold Wing or a BMW touring bike. maybe after flying lessons.

that's my story, and i'm sticking to it.

22 July 2008

I'M SO CONFUSED

yesterday we broke 100 dF for the first time this summer, and i thought i was back in tucson. today it was cloudy and rainy, and about 30 degrees cooler. lovely. for a while i thought i was back in the vancouver/portland area. if tomorrow brings flashbacks to charleston (hurricane hugo), i'm moving to tahiti ! !

20 July 2008

CHINO AIR SHOW

gracias a mi VIEJA amiga irene in tucson, herself a pilot, for providing this link to a set of truly high quality images of WWII warbirds. my personal favorites are the P-40 Warhawk (flying tiger), and the twin fuselage P-38 Lightning. check'm out!

http://home.comcast.net/~bzee1b/Chino/Chino.html

a new friend and i were talking on the phone about flying (among many other topics), and we agreed that the ultimate pilot accomplishment is to land a jet fighter on a carrier deck. PBS recently aired a series titled (coincidence? i think not) "Carrier". each episode featured interviews with the mostly young residents of these floating cities, everyone from pilots to cooks to munitions personnel to flight deck crew. very interesting, even if you're not a plane freak.

13 July 2008

GAIA

my thanks to my friend bill for sending me the following links detailing the career and evolutionary thought of lynn margulis. she is, by any measure, one of the most original thinkers of this or any other age, and has influenced the course of biological/evolutionary theory with penetrating intellect and accessible prose.

her discourse on endosymbiosis:
http://www.edge.org:80/documents/ThirdCulture/n-Ch.7.html

wikipedia biography:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynn_Margulis

i was privileged to attend one of her guest lectures at the university of arizona, in the mid-1980s. the power of her insights and her conclusions was inescapable.

12 July 2008

DREAM FLEET

this is just for fun. following are links to several modes of conveyance. some appear on my fantasy list, others are just quirky. a few assume that the cost of fuel and purchase is no object, which does not describe my current incarnation. enjoy.



on land, four wheels:

smart car. http://www.smartusa.com/

toyota prius. http://www.toyota.com/prius-hybrid/

BMW Z4. http://www.bmwusa.com/Standard/Content/Vehicles/2008/z4/Z4Roadster30si/default.aspx


on land, two or three wheels:

BMW touring bike. http://www.bmwmotorcycles.com/bikes/bike.jsp?b=r1200rt

Honda touring bike. http://powersports.honda.com/Motorcycles/Touring_Sport_Touring/model.asp?ModelName=Gold%20Wing%20Audio/Comfort/Navi/ABS&ModelYear=2008&ModelId=GL18HPNA8&w=829&h=634

Piaggio scooter. http://thekneeslider.com/archives/2006/05/11/piaggio-3-wheel-mp3-scooter/



in the air:

SR-71 Blackbird. http://portal.aircraft-info.net/article12.html

Javelin. http://www.avtechgroup.com/index.asp

Diamond DA40 CS. http://www.diamondair.com/



in the water:

Perception kayaks. http://www.perceptionkayaks.com/

running the Grand Canyon. http://www.raftarizona.com/

Caribbean sailing. http://www.windjammer.com/



in space:

ah, that's a whole 'nother posting. until then.

09 July 2008

A SEMINAL BOOK

in my april 20 entry (check it for commentary), i highly recommended a book called With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change, by fred pearce. the book was relentlessly informative and thought-provoking. i've now discovered another work which asks original questions and poses possible answers that are stunning and, to this sometimes-misanthrope, much to be desired. i refer to The World Without Us, by alan weisman.

the author asks us to imagine what our world was like before we evolved into large-brained, bipedal, opposable thumbed planet-wreckers; and also asks us to imagine how our world might recover if we were to suddenly, hypothetically, vanish overnight. he goes into wonderful detail in describing the processes of decay and collapse of nearly all things human, as well as the processes of recovery and regeneration as nature reclaims our earth, sometimes in quite unexpected directions. it is a grand and imaginative thought experiment, and a window into one possible future for everything we've ever seen or known.

[as luck would have it, much of one chapter (pp. 55-67) describes the career and controversial paleontological thinking of dr. paul s. martin at the university of arizona. paul was my de facto mentor, and remains a good friend, as he has done for hundreds of those who passed through his tutelage at the UA's desert laboratory on tumamoc hill, overlooking tucson from the west. in his environmental education class, he once described a guest speaker, dr. andrew weil, as a true renaissance man. paul is certainly another.]

so. i suppose one might say that while the first book is about the mechanics and consequences of human-caused climate change, the second is about the resulting changes if we were suddenly removed from the scene. equally fascinating, both.

08 July 2008

WALKING THE WALK

yesterday i watched an excellent 1947 movie that i had somehow overlooked over the years, "Gentleman's Agreement". gregory peck plays a journalist who presents himself as being jewish, in order to understand and expose the roots and manifestations of anti-semitism. the film isn't preachy or condescending, and in fact is quite subtle in its exploration of the nuances of bigotry. dorothy mcguire and john garfield also appear, and the movie was directed by elia kazan.

prejudice is something i've thought about and resisted all my life, including a few harrowing passages of self-change. it just makes no sense to eliminate a substantial fraction of the world's wonderfully diverse cultures from my life, simply because of the negative stereotypes which may be attached to them. that's like listening uncritically to every rumor you hear, and believing it. by putting all that stuff aside, i've make my life infinitely richer by becoming friends with people from a wealth of racial, cultural, and national origins. our world is a rich tapestry. why limit our enjoyment of it (thereby limiting our own potential for personal growth) by choosing to notice only certain colors, certain textures?

the device of passing oneself off as being from another social group was described in a similar manner in john howard griffin's book, Black Like Me. and of course, racism against blacks was further exposed in harper lee's 1960 pulitzer prize-winning book, To Kill A Mockingbird -- made into an oscar-winning film two years later, starring .... gregory peck. both his roles stirred controversy, and provoked much thought and self-examination in american discourse. which in my eyes is the highest form of praise.

i've been a de facto minority member several times in my life -- as an anglo among latino co-workers in southern arizona, as a white among black g.i.s in the army, as a male among militant feminist females in the university of arizona's women's studies program (in which i minored for a time). each experience was an eye-opener for me. not that i'm any kind of expert on what it's like to be latino, black or female in our white male-dominated society. just that i've a window onto that experience, sufficient to declare myself an ally, to speak up against prejudice even when mine is the only voice doing so, and even when the prejudiced person is a friend or family member. it is hard at times. but it is also, ultimately, cleansing and liberating.

try it, you'll like it.

05 July 2008

ANOTHER 4th, SURVIVED

few situations hold fear or unease for me. i've dealt with violence, hostility, confrontation, abuse, neglect, character assassination, court disputes, and assorted other forms of civilized conduct in more forms than i can count. but there is an annual event which i dread -- the 4th of july. the explosions, bright flashes, choppers overhead, parachute flares, all conspire to bring up vivid memories of vietnam. it raises the hair on the back of my neck to notice how a string of firecrackers going off sounds like a firefight.

so each year i either find a remote place away from people altogether, or stay home and build an aural wall around me so i can't hear the noise. a shame, really -- people seem to genuinely enjoy the spectacle. and my PTSD isn't a fraction as severe as it is for many vets. at least i understand what stimulates mine, and can mostly manage my environment to remove the stimuli. mostly.

i wonder how the inclusion of fireworks originated? are we re-enacting the aerial bombardment of fort mchenry on september 14,, 1814, the scene which inspired our national anthem? wikipedia doesn't shed much light on why pyrotechnics and explosions have become such an obsession: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4th_of_july maybe it's connected to the u.s. being a gun culture. i dunno. i'm not anti-firearms in principle, though in the hands of anyone but me, guns make me nervous. this includes hunters, criminals, and the police. i think spending a year in a jungle landscape where everyone is armed, and either intent on killing you or may kill you by accident, has something to do with it.

whatever. i can now breathe a deep sigh of relief. until next july.

04 July 2008

A FAREWELL

i am in mourning. two days ago, during the last of our daily phone calls, my love interest revealed to me that she wanted to end our relationship. this was a bolt out of the blue, as she had been sitting on her negative feelings for some time without communicating them to me, or giving us a chance to work through them. as with any couple, there were little things in each of us that bugged the other. unlike most past relationships i've entered into, J and i shared a high degree of mutual empathy, humor, sensuality, and the willingness to risk sharing our thoughts and feelings into intimate realms others rarely dare to enter.

she has certain perceptions of my behavior which she finds oppressive. i think her perceptions are distorted (through lenses which i shall not reveal, out of respect for her privacy). in my view there is nothing we could not have solved. but she ultimately admitted that she doesn't want to put in the work needed for any solid relationship to succeed. she says she is content to live alone, enjoying her circle of friends and the recreational activities she pursues.

all of which is inconsistent with her having sought out a relationship online to begin with. but there've been a number of contradictions in her attitudes and behavior (this being my perception, which in turn may be distorted), which might have been interpreted as red flags. i chose to live in hope. i still do.

the usual platitudes like "it wasn't meant to be", or "the end of this will be the beginning of something better", occur. but they don't erase the pain i feel now, or the regret over the loss of a transcendent level of romance, emotional ease, and intellectual challenge. i know i'll survive, and thrive. as will she. i wish her only the best. how vivid are the memory of her laugh, her touch, the sight of her dancing eyes. J, i miss you.