Monday, February 28, 2011

Challenge Accepted

Recently I realized there was 2 more months of winter left.

Then I realized I was finally getting integrated into Durango life. Met some socially and ecologically conscious people, started going to some meetings, found a great professor with a class to sit in on, found a great library to spend time in, got life back together, got a truck, got out of a bad relationship, start back on task with my own research and writing...

Then I realized there was only a month left. Purgatory closes at the end of March. All indications are pointing to a great summer, though there is still such a level of uncertainty involved that nervousness will simmer until all is figured out by Mid May.

These are the goals:

Turn a binder into the life and controversy of Butch Cassidy

Make a geology & Uranium mining binder

Turn all the WFR and Wilderness First Aid notes into a binder. Re-read the WFR textbook.

Read about the Anasazi, take notes on them from the two books I have.

Get a topper for the truck.

Build false bottoms for the truck.

Get a hitch for the truck.

Get river equipment together.

Do 300 miles of river before May 1st.

Mine the Ft Lewis Library for every scrap of data about Utah Hardrock Mining for the ghost town book.

Mine the Ft Lewis library for all their uranium rush history.

Attend water and policy class.

Use my ski pass before the winter ends.

Rebuild the first aid kit.

Do Taxes.

Start an Astronomy Binder.


This is all going to take a lot more self discipline than sleeping in till noon, making food and going to work, getting home at 1 am, reading the internet and going to bed.

Colorado is interesting. But I'm starting to think it isn't for me. I don't make lots of money and live in a Front Range City. I don't smoke pot or drink that much. I don't ski. There's really no one keeping me here by myself. Next winter I might stay in Utah.

I can't wait to get back there...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Home, Home on the Range

My dear brother and his wife have sent me a handy, small, portable camera in the mail for Christmas! You may have noticed less pictures here lately, which has been due to the fact that stopped working with my cameraphone and my $500 nikon's battery recharger stopped working.

Here's a few pics documenting my transition from homeless guy and guy who has to hitch hike to work because his car crashed to home owner who has a shiny new truck!

The shiny new truck is a beautiful Pyrite Mica colored 2011 Toyota Tacoma 4 cylinder manual 4X4 extended cab with a 6 foot bed. It's about as stripped down a Tacoma as you can get, as I decided the "off road package" and the "SR5 / TRD package" are basically expensive stuff you don't need. I'm not going to take a $24,000 vehicle anywhere I need rear locking differentials, as good as it looked in the promotional pamphlet! The 4 wheel drive gets me anywhere I need to go, and the 9 inch clearance is nice. I'm getting just over 21 mpg right now which I heard goes up after the first few thousand miles.

This is my beautiful home:

It is located about 6 miles SE of Durango, Colorado, behind some nice people's house that I met on the internet. We're about a mile off Highway 160 up a dirt road. I'm also about a 15 minute walk from Mercy Hospital, which is located in the same valley. Elevation here is about 7,000 feet.

As you can see the home itself is a 1972 cab over camper built by Pilgrim Manufacturing Co, INC. that sits on a flatbed trailer. Got the whole deal for $350, worth at least the price of the flatbed alone! It made it here, just outside Duragno, over the passes from Denver being towed behind a 4 cylinder Subaru.

Some stuff stored under the overhanging front:

It has a lovely new aluminum + tar paper roof I built, as the old roof was frost, sun, and water damaged to hell and leaked terribly.

Along with a leaky roof, the previous owner had also ripped the camper jacks off. This left wood and insulation exposed that could have absorbed water and stressed the siding when driving on the highway. I repaired the damage with "great stuff" spray foam, that I shaved down after it dried. Then I drilled in some aluminum flashing and then caulked around the flashing. Now it's pretty bomb proof.

I have this nice big yard. There are foothills of the La Platas across the valley . The rock making up the hills is Cretaceous - era Mesa Verde Sandstone that was uplifted to steep angles by the laccolithic La Plata mountain range as it rose millions of years ago.

There are a lot of deer and elk that hang out in the valley. We see them around the house pretty often. There are also coyotes. Sometimes packs of them yelp at night.

I have a nice soft bed that is warm. I put extra tarpaper under it to better insulate it from the cold air outside, and I taped up some insulating material under the roof hatch to keep warm air from going up and out as fast.

I have these nice shelves. I have more books stored behind them and there are an additional two shelves further down that do not appear in the picture. Book shelves are nice.

There used to be a fridge here that didn't work. I ripped it out and turned the space into a clothes shelf. It's really a lot more organized than it looks.

There's also a more regular closet with shirts and wetsuits in it

This is the heater I bought from Home Depot. It was only about $40, and it works well. It warms up the place pretty fast, though if I come into the house cold around 2 or 4 am when it's less than about 10 degrees outside it takes a while to warm up.

The kitchen is pretty sweet.

There's a two burner hot plate from Walmart and also one of those kettles that plugs into the electricity and heats water really fast. That is great for tea, coffee, soup, and making hot water for dishes with. The sink is a two basin sink, and over one basin I have put a large wooden cutting board that serves as my prep counter. The drain water from the sink drains outside where it runs into an 8 ft bit of extra aluminum from the roof that carries the water a few feet away.

This prevents the water from building up near the tire just outside of the drain, which through freeze and thaw would threaten to sink the tire in mud.

Electricity itself comes into the house via an extension cord connected to the outside of the house

The original outlet on the outside of the camper was long since cut away so cracking a window, cutting some screen, and running an extension cord was the easiest way to get power in here. Duct tape around the cord keeps cold from coming in. The outlet on the house is routed to a 12 amp breaker, which means if I use the heater and the stove at the same time it trips the breaker. My coworker says I should just buy a higher rated breaker and ask the home owners to install it but I haven't got around to doing this yet.

There is a nice living room too:

This is where the computer usually lives. It gets wifi from the main house that is pretty fast, so I can download movies, or watch the live feed from Al Jazeera English for the latest developments on the Egyptian Revolution. There's enough space for two people to sit and eat across the table from each other.

I put down a second layer of carpet on the floor to keep it from being so cold when I walk on it. ACE hardware sold these great narrow carpet lengths that just fit the "hallway" perfectly.

There is also an absorbent mat on the floor by the door where I leave my shoes so as not to track snow all into the house.

My lighting needs at night have been met by a $9 lamp from Home Depot.

It clips onto anywhere, but usually is clipped onto a cabinet handle. It provides enough light for the whole place on a single one of those energy efficient bulbs.

What's that hanging next to the lamp?

Oh, its my ski pass from Purgatory. Those things sell for a few hundred bucks though mine was free. Haven't used it yet. It's a 73 mile round trip for me to get there, which I don't really feel like driving on my day off. Especially because I own no ski equipment and have never been skiing. I'm sure I'll rent something and try it eventually though.

There are a lot of cabinets that are handy for plates, bowls, food storage, etc...

To some of you reading I am sure this appears to be an arduous existence. This is true, in some ways. But it is looking worth it. Though the transition to living here was akward and difficult I am now making decent money again between two jobs and able to save. From late April to October, life is amazing. People pay me to take them down the river. I get to do private trips on my own. I hang out in desert towns and make friends. I cook hunted bunny rabbit over the campfire. I visit ghost towns and photograph them and write about them. Life is about as free and perfect as possible.

Still I have not found a winter equivalent. I am not a glamorous "ski instructor". I haven't even skied. I just work. I remove your wet carpet and pad and drywall and insulation when your pipes freeze. I feed you food and sell you beers when you come to the ski resort and you get hungry. So it is just work and save. Then the Spring life will be great again. And at least on my days off I get to write.

All my punk rock and Western friends with liberal arts degrees are now applying to law school. They decided that while summer work is fun, the winter sucks. It's too cold to camp, it's hard to find a job, and when you do you still make as much as the guy who dropped out of high school. I'm beginning to consider this... as being covered in fiberglass and not able to take a shower does have its disadvantages. Yet... I still have at least one book to write, I have some river sections on my list I still haven't run, and I am going to need at least two more months in Utah's West Desert. So for now, this is my home. I'll drag it to Utah in the summer and live in it there. Did I mention my rent, including electricity and internet, is only $150 a month?

A happy homeowner

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Obama Administration is Not Calling for Mubarak's Immediate Departure

I was reading an article on Egypt on Yahoo News. Yahoo News is a wonderful resource, and a valuable one from which to get a fresh perspective on the unfolding events in Egypt.

Unlike the many articles, videos, posts, and accounts I have been reading and watching these past weeks on Al Jazeera, Facebook, You Tube, The Daily Show, or Socialist Worker, Yahoo News has a broad enough readership to allow it to do a remarkable thing: report on official US positions on Mid East politics "objectively". This remarkable ability to take the words of press secretaries, department heads, and presidents at face value, with rather little snickering, editorializing, mocking, or tangent pointing out of the goddamned blatant hypocrisy of it all, is truly a rare and precious talent.

Reading the article I came across the following instructive paragraph:

"The Obama administration is not calling for Mubarak's immediate departure, saying a precipitous exit could set back the country's democratic transition. Under Egypt's constitution, Mubarak's resignation would trigger an election in 60 days. U.S. officials said that is not enough time to prepare..."

Apparently today, while Mubarak's security thugs are attacking and murdering peaceful protesters,the Obama administration remains under the impression that 60 more days of such treatment is far too little time for "democracy" to effectively germinate.

Clearly that man, and his cabinet, are all well experienced in foreign policy, democracy, and the governence of large, populous countries. I'm convinced that they must know what they are talking about. After all, they have been torturing prisoners in Guantonamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and the basement of the Iraqi Interior Ministry building for almost 10 years and as yet, both Iraq and Afghanistan remain imperfect democracies. Clearly more time is needed. There are still doors to be kicked down, fathers to be dragged away at night, buildings to be bombed, and families to be machine gunned to death for failing to stop at checkpoints. Those Americans out there protesting the war, and those Egyptians out there protesting Mubarak, would do well to head these lessons and appreciate that fact.

As history has shown time and again, the interests of Egyptians would certainly best be served by the adoption of patience on the part of the protesters while the (benevolent) Western Power uses its influence on their dictator to secure a fitting democracy on their behalf. All this hasty and reckless protesting by such great numbers of untrained and unorganized citizens is no way to go about setting up a representative government. It's not like protesting and fighting in the street has ever got any nation closer to a republic!

America itself has always provided one of the most classic and instructive example of this process. In the end, it was years of calm and patient endurance of British imposed taxes and rule that finally resulted in the local governors coming to their senses, writing up a constitution, and funding candidates to run in carefully supervised elections for Americans to vote in. As all good students of American History have studied, life in the original 13 colonies during the years 1775-1783 was best characterized by a remarkable political stability. This was key to attracting much needed foreign direct investment, IMF loans, and tourist revenue- without which the citizens never would have been capable of eventually deciding on a proper form of government. Had George Washington been so rash as to organize a revolutionary army, imprison and hang British officers and political puppets, and call for immediate elections to an organically American continental congress, he would have messed it up completely! Hell, had that occurred, we'd probably be living today in some kind of chaotic failed state of declining living standards where the news is controlled by authoritarian demagogues and politically influential religious fundamentalists oppress women and minorities. Thank God and thank the democratizing "influence" of King George's State Department that we were able to avoid this fate! My only hope today is that the Egyptians, too, will recognize before it is too late that democracy can only be won by people who are brave enough to limit their demands to what is acceptable to autocrats and foreign governments.

Sarcasm aside, the sort of thinking evident in the quotation at the start of this article betrays the profound contempt for human life in the Middle East that has characterized the thinking of every American government that has ever given the matter any thought. The democratic demands of people who have been oppressed for 30 years come dead last to the strategic importance of the Suez Canal, oil, and the convenience of having friendly dictators in the region (Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, etc...). What Obama, Hillary, Bush, Mubarak, King Abdullah, and their ilk fear more than anything is the direct "interference" of citizens in the political process. They have no conception of any political system not dominated by corporate money and not orchestrated by professional politicians with all the proper credentials of graduate degrees, internships, Foreign Affairs subscriptions and memberships in established political parties.

Barak Obama is a war criminal who escalated the Afghan war and continued the Iraq war. When Israel bombed Gaza he said nothing. When hated dictator Mubarak was about to topple he came out to prop up his crumbling regime. That man never got to where he is today because of his love for, or efficiency with, democracy. He is where he is today because his campaign was bought and paid for by the financial industry, the fossil fuel energy industry, and the pharmaceutical industry. Obama is a neo-colonialist in every sense of the word. The Egyptian people have nothing to gain from listening to his lies or waiting for the CIA to invent and install another puppet with a different name. Obama, like Bush, is an enemy of democracy and is today the greatest obstacle standing in the way of peace, democracy, and human rights in the Middle East.

Yankee Go Home. Long Live the Intifada!