11 December 2011

Culture Shock Retro

A reminder to those who would venture far from the desert for an extended period. Don't do it. A warning to those who would see continued growth in the desert. Don't let it happen. Nine months of living in the SF bay area has taught me much, or at least now reminds me of past experiences. I've lived in cities before London, Los Angeles, New Orleans, San Francisco, San Antonio and visited many others, Paris, Amssterdam, Saigon, Bangkok and Hong Kong. They are a major reason I live in the desert. They are also the major reason to watch the growth of our desert cities.

Now it is time to return to the desert. This time to Chandler, Az which is south of Phoenix. Having received an education in branta canadensis or the Canada goose it's time to put that and my dog to work and see if there really is money to be made chasing wild geeseSo following the winter migration pattern brings us back to the warm desert climate where the geese nest for the winter while invading parks and golf courses. Is there work. In this economy, who knows?

As for the city by the bay? There is no heart in San Francisco, it's been replaced by the greed of Wall Street and Occupiers who lack direction and movement. You can have it. I prefer the silence, cold clear nights and bright blue days. With Sedona not far from here who knows perhaps I can even venture back into the tour business part time.

As for my obsession with the America's Cup; I've been following it on the internet and will return to the city by the bay in 2013 for the race itself. Only I have to keep reminding myself that according to some, the Mayans have predicted the end of the world in Dec 2012.  Actually what happened to the Mayans is they died out by laughing themselves to death at the results of the 2012 election.

09 November 2011

Motivational speakers.

Life, lessons and coffee.
Recently I read a post about someone who did well at a motivational lecture. Now I have no idea what a motivational lecture is about, on the other hand my brother seems to be quite an expert on the subject as he has a Life Coach and attends motivational lectures. For a number of years I've gotten snippets of this wisdom and what he's learned. For example he says 10 affirmations when he gets up in the morning, positive thoughts about himself and what he's going to accomplish. I get Lectures about how successful he is and that he's the #2 man in the office. From there on, it's on and on, about what I can do to help myself. Then come the lessons on life. How to be a success and make a great deal of money, how to win friends and influence people (Andrew Carnegie wasn't it?). Then I ask him, "Are you prepared for a major earthquake in your front yard?" Considering he lives right on top of a major fault where oil has been pumped out of the ground for over a hundred years there has definitely been a change to the geologic structure of the fault zone where he lives. Come on Bro' WTF you gonna do when the Inglewood Fault rips? His response is the insurance company will take care of it. Puzzled I tried to explain to him that his insurance company isn't going to be there during the quake and asked what was he going to do in the immediate aftermath. I still have no answer. Nonetheless Bro goes on with life lessons that really have no meaning now that he refuses to accept the possibility of a major quake in his living room.
While living in the SF bay area I also met a lot of people who attended these uplifting motivational lectures on life the universe and everything. And like my bro most of them are eager to pass on what they've learned and show off the success it has brought. None of them will accept the fact that an 8ft tsunami entering San Francisco Bay at mean high tide would cover all except the very center of the island they live on.
Living on the San Andreas Fault, playing on the edge in the desert I too have learned life lessons. From the practical I've learned how to make a fire with only the materials at hand and how to extract water from plants (a waste of time). I too have a life coach she is a bit different than my brothers, Mother Nature. She has taught me the most important life lesson of all which is to know what to do when Mother walks up to you and and goes, "Tag! You're it!"

To my brother and those who would give life lessons. You only need one affirmation. "The world is magic." But there is no magic without coffee.

01 November 2011

Interesting how a simple post generates interest. While there are no comments, there are emails asking questions. WTF are you doing in San Francisco? How could you leave the desert? Disabled? I didn't know you were disabled.

I shall endeavor to answer these questions although normally I would not.

WTF are you doing in San Francisco?
I'm not in San Francisco. I'm living on an island in SF bay, not Alcatraz. According to local citi-zens at the pub we are essentially "...surrounded by a moat protected by a police department imported from South Africa." Part of the EOCs emergency plans are to raise the drawbridges to isolate the island in case of terrorism and to evacuate or supply the island by sea. I kid you not. Did I say Oakland was on the other side of the drawbridge?

How could you leave the desert?
This link for one. I've been a sailor since the age of ten even in the desert. Owned and raced sailboats from 8-58 ft. That also included racing 16ft Hobie Cats. It will be interesting to see the worlds oldest sporting trophy won by the worlds fastest boats here in the (on the?) bay, in my front yard. Still there is much more to the answer.

There is no work in the desert. An incident covered by the Sun Runner Magazine years ago helped put me there. While "Character Matters" it is reputation that pays the bills and reputations are as fragile as a bubble. Yet like a Phoenix (the bird, not the city) I shall rise again only this time with the assistance of a very clever dog.

Blue Djinn, a border collie

I've written about him before and will do so again. Gone through a lot because of and with him. He'll turn three in December and has been trained to work as my service dog; hence the black tie. He has also been trained to chase Canada Geese.

 Very physical work that requires discipline to work in a marsh and wetlands; hence black mud. The place to learn about chasing Canada geese is the SF Bay area where they are an ecological disaster. The East Bay Regional Park District is no longer making an attempt to control the geese mostly due to the  cost and amount of paperwork involved to get permits for goose control and removal. Enter dogs, the only cost effective method to controlling Canada Geese. As far as I've been able to to determine, permits are not required to use dogs as they are the only "safe and humane" method to control Canada Geese. Jin is perfect for this. His sheepdog stare, same as a wolf on the hunt, is normally enough to spook geese without having to send him on the run in.

Disabled? I didn't know you were disabled. 
Does that make a difference?  A few of my old climbing team mates seem to think so and I really didn't have a choice in the matter. Okay so I can't climb Joshua Tree rock or hike the miles and miles to Pine City in empty desert anymore. I can still get out and hike until I get back to the car, belay your overweight ass on the rock as long as the pain killers work and keep you from trouble.  Injuries that would make most people cringe have accrued over a lifetime and finally caught up to me. My advice to those younger than I; if your not willing to pay for it in pain when you get older, don't do it.

What about "DeRanger" Steve?
After years of being called "Ranger" Steve the name was given to me by the Sun Runner magazine after the Joshua Tree park rangers got a bug up their ass over someone else who they couldn't prosecute. So the rangers decided to involve me since I contracted with the Hummer tour guys who they were really after. Like I said reputations are as fragile as a bubble and apparently, character doesn't matter. I shall say a number of years ago Chief Ranger Cheryl and Ranger Sam at San Jacinto State park both said to me that I was the only real ranger left. It was the same day I aided a 12 year old boy in severe heat stress at the Tram's Mountain station where there were no rangers or anyone else to assist. Finally what about "DeRanger" Steve? I'll keep posting here. New articles, same thoughts and you can follow us on Facebook at "The Adventures of Ranger and Jin"(c).

BTW for the national park service and the state or whoever else decides to take issue. That title is copyright 2011 and it is literary. The name "Ranger" is the fictionalized name of a real person and is protected by the 1st amendment.

31 October 2011

Culture Shock Redux.

Written for the next issue of Sunrunner Magazine is an article on the Old West and how it is still rooted deep in our minds. For over 15 years tourists have asked me the same rounds of questions  about the desert it's lore and the Old West as we walk, ride and drive about. Some of the more common ones questions are: Where are all the birds? Are there snakes here? Do you carry a gun? Why do people live here; what do they do? The second part of the question is easy to answer, the first part not so.

To answer that I in a manner citi-zens will understand I have moved to the San Francisco Bay area with my dog Jin. It's a lesson from my youth; to properly answer a question you have to know why it is being asked; "Why do we live here (in the desert)?" The Sun Runner Magazine article answers part of of the question and I could continue with a list going on for several volumes. Still there is one answer that stands out, the cacophony of  the city. It doesn't exist in the desert, not even in Palm Springs during biker weekend or spring break, it just doesn't exist. To visitors and tourists the lack of dissonance is so tangible that they comment on it when they talk about how the silence of the desert. 

So wherever you are, right now while reading this, pause. Stop and open a window; better yet, step outside and listen. If it's daytime you'll here the sounds associated with work and the local traffic. Perhaps people, kids, dogs all in the distance, in the background.
Listen even more carefully you'll hear planes flying at high altitude, cafes, in general life as it goes on around us rarely intruding and then it's usually when a fire truck comes rushing down the street or a band of motorcycles engines is shattering the relative silence. At night there is less and take a walk into the desert it is complete, even in mid-day. So peaceful that a quiet voice can be heard 1/2 a mile away. 

It is not so in the city. It is always in your face. Even on this peaceful relatively quiet island in the bay I can here ships, trains, BART, traffic, sirens, aircraft and more 24/7. More you can't get away from it even on a trip deep into a regional park. It is quite plainly still there, ceaseless and certainly not in the background. For the past two weeks the dominant note of discord has been helicopters patrolling the skies over the city where Occupy Oakland is encamped two miles in a straight line from my flat; and very plainly in my face.


22 September 2011

We all have major life changes. Some people cope, others fall apart and still others recover with time. In my case it is a disability that now prevents me from doing the physical work of of an eco-tour and adventure guide: climbing, hiking and herding tourists through the desert. The incident that disabled me had other effects as well so for the past few years I've been learning how to be a disabled person. To see me on a trail today or on the street you might have a hard time be able to tell with the exception of one small addition. My ever present dog now wears a vest that says "Service Dog - On Duty." Jin has also been specially trained to help mitigate my disability. FYI, the basic legal definition of a disability is "... persons who actually have physical or mental impairments that substantially limit one or more major life activities. For example you can no longer work and make an income in your chosen profession. That's what happened to me. How did it happen? Doesn't matter really and it's poor etiquette to ask. Suffice to say I'm not going to be doing any long strenuous hikes anymore.

What then? There is outdoor work I can do. Using my dog, a border collie, we are going to learn how to control Canada geese and keep greensward's, parks and golf courses clear. This is actually an education in itself. There is law to learn, the International Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918, the methods to control wild geese in a safe and humane manner. A few new things for the blog along like how to turn your canine companion into a Canine Good Citizen. And as always being safe when outdoors to exploreing places like Yosemite NP, the Sierra Nevada Mountains along with the entire north coast. Thee are even a few rocks I can climb within reason.

Sadly the first article on my return also has to include an admonishment to those who rent cars for a trip into the desert. In August the bodies of a dutch couple were found on Black Eagle Mine Road not far from a rented sedan. According to what I read it wasn't even a hot day (<103). This is not the first time a sedan has been found broken down off road. I've seen and rescued plenty of them. If you are going to go for a drive in our desert then rent a 4x4. Augustinus Van Hoveand his girlfriend, Helena Nuellett would be alive today if they had been in a sport ute.

Nuff Said

05 May 2011

Chasing wild gees for profit.

Actually there are none. I could go on and on about going on and on but it wouldn't make a difference. Time to move forwards and and bring everyone up to date.

If you must know it all started in the future 5 years ago when {insert a made up fantastic story involving aliens and old man Van Tassel builder of the Integratron who came forwards in time to...} and that's how we did it.

Okay enough fairy tales. No longer doing tours I'm spending the summer in the SF Bay area to learn the art of Wild Goose Chasing. Not only is it an art, you can get paid for it.

Few know that my constant companions for the past 40 years have been border collies. They have worked beside me from engineering and industry to the trail. I've talked about Jin previously in the O'blogatory and most people know them as the smartest dogs in the world.

Border collies need to work. they are perfect for use in the removal of Canada Geese and wildfowl chasing dogs are in huge demand in the northern U.S and Canada where they have a problem with migratory Canada Geese. The same problem now exists in the low desert golf courses where the population of permanent geese is growing and migratory geese are ruining golf courses,park and greensward.

Like the border collie I need work too. Making a deal with a local golf course I started training Jin to remove geese in a safe, humane and acceptable manner. Plainly put it seems to be the only really effective method of getting rid of geese.

Of course we aren't always in training and I need to keep fit but there's not a lot of rock in the island I live on. In fact the closets rocks are climbing walls in some of the nearby communities so I've started to visit them.

And that brings me back to the original bent of this blog. Keeping your ass out of trouble when playing in the desert. Yet it doesn't just apply to the desert it also applies to the mountains, plains and cities. For example those of you who are rock climbers know how stringent our procedures and checks are. Hips and clips, right and tight then yank and tank. Translated, make sure your partners harness is on correctly and the rope is properly tied in. Gear inspection is just as important. We look for wear and tear on cam teeth and galling on 'biner gates and locks. Then if in doubt, throw it out.

It seems that our city cousins are a bit more complacent in these things. There is a definite lack of interest in survival or even in staying basically safe. People who work and play on the various rock walls in the area seem to be a complacent. Gear that passes the inspections of climbing wall staffer would certainly fail on real rock. Perhaps this comes from playing on an artificial rock wall and its being is deemed safer. Certainly it's not in my book. A fall from any height, wall or rock, is going to hurt if a piece of gear fails.

The point of all this BS? Simple, check your gear. Inspect everything and ask will it fail? If in doubt, throw it out. Then lets head for the rock.

05 February 2010

Curtains for Windows

For years I've suffered with the expense and headache that is Microscum Windows. Constant upgrades, bugs, crashes, viruses, malware, etc. The cost alone to upgrade from one Windows version to the next plus the cost of MS Office and other software upgrades, etc. Not to mention the hardware upgrades just so you can run the damn thing. For years I've said the only thing Windows does is get in the way of productivity. I spend an awful lot of time maintaining Windows in order to keep the system running at optimum. I spent a lot of money doing the same thing. Win 3.11 required a HD upgrade, Win95 memory, WinME video and a bigger drive, WinXP needed even more memory and Vista??? forget it, that needed a whole new computer. Now there's Win7, really after 17 years when are you going to get it right?

So two the weekends ago I switched to Linux. Specifically it's called: Ubuntu Karmic Koala. The last version was called Ubuntu Jaunty Jackrabbit. See no version numbers, already I feel better. I find that there are versions of Linux that will run on my old DOS 386 with 640K of ram. That's all I need to run a standalone server.

Ubuntu is free. Sun Micro's Open Office software suite is free, accounting software is free, utilities are free, med record tracking is free, the games are free, graphics and multimedia are free and thousands of other apps are free. In fact in setting up Ubuntu from scratch the only cost I have incurred is labor, about an hour for the basic install, compared to a couple of days to set up a Windows environment enough so that I can work.

Here's some of what I did not have to set up in Ubuntu.
Office software (it's included)
Graphics and photo editing software (included)
Internet security and anti virus, not needed
Networking (automatic)
Internal security (already secure)

Add-on Internet Security (InSec) like Symantec or McAffee alone can take up as much as 1/3 or more of your Windows systems resources and it requires constant updating. That's 1/3 of your memory and processing power for example just to keep your computer safe from hackers. The equivalent amount of system resources for Ubuntu to do this same task is ZERO! nada, nothing. I like that since it's another annual expense I don't have anymore.

Of course I shall have to keep Windows around since I do have a couple of legacy apps I need. However I'll run it as a task inside Ubuntu and not by itself. It shall also have no access to the Internet. As far as my main computer is concerned I'm a happy camper. Eventually I shall convert the entire network to Ubuntu for a total cost of $0.00 and in doing so I shall extend the life of my computers of which only one is capable of running Vista or Win7

Goodbye Windows it's curtains for you. Goodbye Bill Gates and all the money I wasted being frustrated with the pile of crap that is Windows. You won't be getting anymore.