Kaibab Journal

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October - December 2011

Post-Thanksgiving Workout

On Storage

Why Do We Read?

Advice for Ron Paul

Thursday, December 22, 2011

   Post-Thanksgiving Workout - A couple of days after Thanksgiving, I did a day hike in the Grand Canyon with hiking buddies John Eastwood and Bill Ferris.  [The photo to the right shows John and Bill hiking over the Tonto trail as it leads to Indian Garden.  Click to see a larger image.]  I decided to ask the editor of the Daily Sun if he'd be interested in a story for his weekly Outdoors column, which runs each Tuesday.  He was enthusiastic and I penned something quite quickly ...  Finally, the story ran on Tuesday, December 20 ... 

Read the full story, 

South Kaibab to Bright Angel:
Looping past the site of Cameron's Tent Cabins near Indian Garden

  in the Hiking Grand Canyon section of the Kaibab Journal.

Friday, December 23, 2011

   On Storage - As I gaze over my rather extensive collection of DVDs, I keep thinking about the future of storage.  I know, it doesn't seem very interesting, but it is to me.  [So is how aluminum is made, but that will have to wait for a later time.]  I can remember the days before we could tape TV shows and there was no such thing as a movie rental business.  I can still remember wanting to watch a new show that was called "Star Truck."  But, I missed seeing it because it was either on too late or it didn't command a sufficient vote to allow watching on our small black and white TV.  It was only years later, when I saw reruns of this show, that I realized it's title was "Star Trek"!  But, with just four channels (plus or minus), shows appearing as reruns wasn't all that common.  So, if you missed something, you just missed it.  Then, along came video tape.

     I missed the Betamax wave, thank goodness.  [I also pretty much missed 8-track tapes, too.]  But, eventually a VHS player/recorder was cheap enough to buy, as was the tape.  Now, you could actually tape shows, and buy (or, rent) copies of movies.  And, thus began my video collection.  I taped mostly movies and mostly I never watched them!  Well, in economics we talk about something called a "reservation price," which is what you'd pay just on the off chance you might want to "consume" some good.  So it was with these movies.  I didn't do much insofar as TV shows goes except for the Babylon 5 series.  I taped the original airing (at the slowest speed; 6 episodes to a tape!), and then I taped the reruns on TNT when they picked up the fifth season.  Then I taped them all again when the shows went to the Sci Fi channel and they were aired in letterbox.  Now, I did watch the whole series a couple of times, but not the Sci Fi version.  Of course now I own the DVDs (and have watched them all the way through at least twice).

     The advent of the Laserdisc interested me a lot, but was way too expensive for my tastes.  I can remember another student in grad school musing about being able to buy a multi-disc set of Lawrence of Arabia.  I am pretty sure that was before the restored movie was re-released to theaters in 1989 (which I saw twice within a week).  And, during a film festival on campus one year that featured movies by Orson Welles, I caught a session with Roger Ebert who was using a Laserdisc to go through Citizen Kane practically frame by frame.  Too cool, but still too pricey.

     So, I was quite enthusiastic about the DVD revolution and started to build quite a library of movies.  When blu-ray came along (I decided to give HD DVD a pass) I was leery of replacing my DVDs.  So far I haven't really done that, with a few exceptions.  The blu-ray player does a good job on DVDs - in fact, if you couldn't play a DVD on the blu-ray I am sure I would not have moved that way.  Now, I pretty much only buy blu-ray discs to add to my DVD collection.  [If you click on the picture of my videos, above, you'll see a larger image and can see my copy of the Lost series on blu-ray next to my DVD copy of Repo Man.] 

     But, I wonder why.  It seems to me (and, probably everyone else), that the whole "on-demand" market is just going to get better and better.  Why not just pay $1 every time you want to see your favorite movie rather than pay $20 to own a copy.  I do like the extra features on the discs, and the on-demand services will have to find a way to include that if I am going to switch sooner rather than later.  Still, it makes me think that my lifelong quest to obtain these movies has been for naught.  As it is, I already get sucked into watching a movie on my satellite service even though I own a copy!  Just last night - an hour of Battle: Los Angeles.  I suspect the current generation doesn't feel as compelled to acquire and store movies, books, and music.  My book collection is also too large, although I am loathe to give up any of my really old Grand Canyon tomes.  And, while my music collection isn't that large, there was a time when I had lots of vinyl, and even 45s before that.  Now, you just skip out to iTunes or Google Books and find everything you could want.  Maybe in another 20 years, you won't find home libraries, or video and music collections.  Everyone will just have electronic access and our days of personal storage will be over.  Sort of like in Fahrenheit 451, but in a nice way.  Insert smiley face here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

   Why Do We Read? - I was having an interesting conversation with someone about how we just don't remember the things we read.  Especially, the books, et al., that we read for pleasure.  I can often say whether a book was good or not, but can't ever recall any specifics to back up those opinions.  So, what was the point?  Good question.  Yet, I have always liked to read and still do so.  I have lots of books, and plenty of them I will never read despite my best intentions.  Very few have I read more than once.  The short stories of Philip K. Dick come to mind, and I have read parts of the Lord of the Rings more than once (but, I've seen the 3 movies more than that!).  But, those are exceptions to the general rule.  However, I have a hard time giving them up.  I always look at them and think that I might read them again.  But, why?  Well, because I don't remember any of the details.  And, therein lies the dilemma I am wrestling with - why do we read?

     Years ago I read John Kenneth Galbraith's autobiography, A Life in Our Times, which I really liked.  But, why?  Well, I remember it as being well-written (which is true of his books anyway) and full of details about being raised in Canada and ending up at Harvard and working for the price control agency during WWII, as well as doing a study of the value of our strategic bombing during WWII (or, was that in another book?) and working for the Kennedy administration.  But, I clearly don't recall any but the barest of details - the kind you could write out in a paragraph not unlike the one you are reading!  I do remember one specific comment of his that has stuck with me for years (yes, I read it a long time ago).  Once he finished reading a book he would sit down and write up a page, or two, of comments and notes about it so that he wouldn't forget what he had read!  To this day, I do the same with nonfiction books.  In fact, I can't read something of substance without a pen and pencil, pad of paper and sticky notes at the ready.  Consequently, it takes me a long time to read these books, but I have notes to refer to so that I can recall what I learned.

     For books I use in my teaching that is not the case.  Forgetting what I read, that is.  I read them over and over, if not in their entirety, then at least major sections/chapters.  I take voluminous notes and often have put together PowerPoint slide shows to draw out the details for my students.  Of course, what my students do is read them once and don't take notes and forget what they've read pretty much as soon as they put the book down.  But, that's not really their fault, is it?  And, clearly, our educational establishment would never think to require the level of effort necessary to insure that students actually understood what they have read.  But, that is the topic for another blog.

     As I noted in my previous blog (On Storage), I have a lot of DVDs.  And, I watch them.  Frequently and repetitively in some cases.  And, I am sure that I remember more from a movie (even one I have only seen once) then I have from the most recent novel I have read.  And, that got me to thinking about whether we could have a world without a written language, or perhaps only one we use infrequently.

     For example, the signs on the highway almost always have a picture of an airplane when the airport exit is coming up.  I suppose we could say that signs posting numbers don't count anyway (speed limits, highway numbers, etc.).  But, in the far off future, we may be doing everything by voice anyway . . .

Ed stepped into his car, a new 2075 Phantom.  It started up and Ed detailed his itinerary for the day.  "First stop is at Barton's, my lawyer.  Then, I want to go to the archives at the USGS.  After that, lunch at Maroney's."  The afternoon itinerary didn't matter.  The computer voice in the car acknowledged Ed's destinations and asked if he had any special requirements for the trip other than speed, which he answered, "No."

As the car entered the street, Ed flipped through some news channels on the state-of-the-art entertainment system he had specially installed.  After a few moments he decided to order up a refined news summary.  "Give me a five minute summary of current financial news that affects the North American Union going back 24 hours."  He leaned back and listened to the report.  At the end, he said, "Two more minutes on the current unemployment rate data and implications.  Add to that one minute on how the Democrats and Republicans are likely to interpret this situation."  And, so it went as he traveled to his lawyer's office to leave a DNA scan on a recording of his updated will.  Since lawyers had to now require all parties to a dispute or contract to view the contents spoken to them, a lot of the "party of the first part" rigamarole was eliminated and - no surprise - people actually understood what they were agreeing to.

     Well, that illustrates the idea.  It just seems to me that written content will become increasingly obsolete.  Funny thing for me to claim, since I like to write!  So, from books-on-tape, to pictures on the McDonald's cash register, I can easily imagine that the written word will get scarcer and scarcer.  When we can just verbalize our requests for information and get it back in a spoken, or visual, manner, what will be left to write?  And, will we still read?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

   Advice for Ron Paul - The Iowa caucuses are just a few days away.  Earlier for this election year than in years past.  In fact, I participated in the caucuses in 1976, when I was in my senior year at Drake University.  Great fun, but clearly they were held while school was in session.  Anyway, the expectation is that Ron Paul will win, or finish a close second.  He has spent a great deal of time, energy and effort in this state.  The question is, what will he do with his showing to ratchet up to the next level.  Most pundits keep saying that he is maxed out at about 20% approval among voters and if he doesn't change his style, I would agree.

     But, unlike most pundits, I like Ron Paul.  It takes a while and you really have to listen to his message carefully, but if you do, you may find he is the most sensible candidate in the race.  Yet, his opponents have hijacked the narrative on him as a crazy person.  That is not only unfair, it is just laying the groundwork for what the Dems would say should Paul win the nomination.  But, I don't think he can win the nomination, but can change his tack to further his cause.  To wit . . .

Demote foreign policy as a campaign issue.  The hullabaloo mostly comes from Ron Paul's foreign policy.  So, why not just refuse to go down that road?  Indeed, there is virtually nothing in his Plan to Restore America that deals with foreign policy.  Acknowledge that fundamental international relationships are not likely to change under a Ron Paul term (or, two).  Maybe something like getting rid of half the military installations around the world would be enough.  If absolutely nothing changes in the foreign policy arena, but enormous advance is made on the domestic front, it wouldn't bother me.  It's still much better than what we're likely to get.  Maybe even an acceptable foreign policy wonk for VP would help in this regard - I saw a news bit on Condi Rice that made me think this could be the right choice!

Focus on specific domestic issues.  The next step should be a shortened explicit wish list for domestic policies that are practicable in a first term.  Once outlined, it can become the point of discussion, argument and debate.  List the 2 specific cabinet offices to get rid of - Energy and Education probably, although Commerce, Agriculture, Labor and Transportation are also on my list.  Tout the fact that you're leaving Homeland Security in for now.  When it comes to the Fed, the call for an audit is a good start, but it probably best not to push the envelope on his proposal to End the Fed.  Simplify his tax reduction proposals and get them out front and center.  Finally, he has a specific list of regulations that should be eliminated.  He should focus on his plan for regulatory reform that will reduce the regulatory bias that is present in government anyway.

Angle for the Convention.  The GOP Convention is probably the last stop on the Ron Paul train.  I think that he should use his voter support to leverage a prime time spot at the convention, where he can lay out a modest agenda for President Romney to follow after he beats Obama -  End those departments, cut taxes, keep federal spending to no more than X% of GDP, place a sunset on all regulations, etc.  This is the best way to insure that the agenda doesn't die with the end of his campaign.  Getting a Marco Rubio on the ticket as veep may also insure that the cause has some longevity.

The Kaibab Journal